From Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins:
F. Scott Fitzgerald was determined to be a successful writer. The love of his life, Zelda, wouldn’t marry him because she was worried about his unstable career choice. He wrote nineteen stories and received 122 rejection letters. He actually hung the rejections around his apartment as motivation. Eventually, his first novel was published. This Side of Paradise was a big hit and Zelda agreed to marry him. He became one of the most successful authors of his time.
In 1923, he began work on The Great Gatsby. He told his editor, “Artistically, it’s head and shoulders over anything I’ve done.” As he neared publication, he worried that the critics would hate it, that women wouldn’t buy it, that the title was terrible. He turned out to be right. The critics hated it and it sold terribly. H.L. Mencken called the novel a “glorified anecdote” and called Fitzgerald a “clown”.
Despite his early resilience, he took the “failure” hard. Afterward, he found it difficult to write. His personal life was also a mess, with Zelda being admitted to a mental hospital. He struggled with alcoholism and died of a heart attack at age forty-four.
At the time of his death, The Great Gatsby was mostly out of print. His last royalty check was for thirteen dollars, most of which was from copies he purchased himself. He died never knowing that The Great Gatsby would become a classic and sell 25 million copies worldwide.
He embraced the struggle early in his career, but after he’d had a taste of success, he couldn’t face rejection and failure. Had he been able to brush off the criticism and keep going, who knows what he might’ve created. Who knows how much longer he might’ve lived.