Monday, January 10, 2011
Don't count the Blisters!
Many blogs I haunt, stalk and lurk about on mention rejection. Writers are usually dealing with a ton of rejection. It is not unique to writers but I think sometimes they tend to take it harder. Many refer to the books they craft as their "babies" and they do mean it. There is something personal about sending things that have occurred only in your mind out into the world for the world to examine. It's also hard to decide that your not insane until someone says they like it.
I was just on a random blog in which a lovely lady had posted her entire 800+ page novel that the world didn't understand. She had spent the last 14 years trying everything to get it published. She was so disheartened that nobody would take a chance on her. She has a master's in creative writing and the story was all about her childhood. She had found an agent once but dropped them when they told her she would have to edit the book. No, every word was sacred to her.
I looked at the book, thinking it would be fun to read. I expected it to be good, just too long. I read three paragraphs. I read them again. What? This woman has spent 14 years on this one book and having had college English begins the book when she is two years old? She jumps from baby talk to an adult voice in the middle of one paragraph, back to child voice repeating what she's already said, then complains about someone. I have to say I was confused. That was the hook? It would get better; it had to! I read a few excerpts from the middle. The subject had not moved at all.
She is so certain that every word she has tapped out is for the ages that she has now rejected the world. Why so much effort on one book? Why not put it away and try again? I can't believe that an otherwise very intelligent writerly person could not see that she has made herself a failure. She actually can't write for bupkiss, because she stopped improving. She got a degree, wrote a babbling self justification of her tragic lonely childhood and now has no more. It makes me respect the poor agents out there who see this sort of crazy all day every day, even more. They have to deal with these people. Can you imagine the query? My two million word literary self romance is set in no particular time and uses my very own innovation of voice jumping and telling telling telling and telling.
They also have to reject a bunch of us who are pretty good. Lots of writer blogs complain about rejections and how devastating they can be. If you think that the first Baby you tap out is the very best you will ever do, you have not written long enough. Every person has heard the glory of the writer who wrote one book, got an agent on the third try and made a bazillion dollars. Uhem, that isn't how it works the other 99.99999999% of the time. Even for the luckiest lucky connected writer, the real story is that they worked for a long time before becoming an overnight success.
So, how do you deal with rejection? When do you give up? When do you realize that You have no talent and are never going to be Lucky MacWriterly, famous author? The Moment you can't improve your work or hear criticism, your writing days are over. Stop now.
I see writers post their rejection numbers on blogs, signatures and other peoples comments. If it is just to prove you paid your dues or inspire others to not give up, then it's fun information to share. If it is to prove to yourself you are failing, then don't bother. You are failing. You are, one day, going to hit that magic number that let's you give up. You will never write again to punish the mean old world.
If you are writing and getting rejected, you deal with it by improving and continuing. So long as you can look back and see that what you wrote six years or six months ago isn't as good as what you wrote today, you have not failed. Some of us write and some of us dream of writing. Some people tap out a best seller and never get it published, rejecting being rejected. Some people spend an entire life nursing one or two blisters. The blisters don't count, so don't count them. A blister can be useful. It may tell you to buy some new shoes, not to put a death grip on the club, or to buy a book on manuscript format. It is never there to give you permission to give up on something you actually love doing.
I see people who are in love with the idea of being an author but really don't like to write. I see people who really like to write, but don't intend to ever get published. I am in the middle. I will write no matter what. Maybe I will write until I am good enough to get some big old blisters from actual critics! If I can't take a little "no thanks" blister, a really ugly criticism would devastate me.
Think of rejection as your practice for when you do get published. I know my little series is going to have a few people screaming, if it ever gets published. But, controversy doesn't mean you get to be in a bubble of blister free bliss, just because you have an agent. Poor Mark Twain is still in trouble. George Carlin was the acknowledged master of bad words and Mr. Conductor on Thomas the Tank? They dealt with rejection. Feel the privilege of following in the footsteps of greatness. Think of this, agents get rejected too. You may not even realise how often agents deal with rejection. I never see Them count the number of writers they wanted but lost to another agent, or how many times they schlepped your book around before getting a single bite. They also have to be the one to break up with the poor klutzy, puppy eyed writer 300 times a day. Imagine the fun it must be to turn down 300 hopeful prom dates every day. Blech, I would rather not wear those shoes for long. Talk about Blisters!
Some golfers are Tigers, but lots of old duffers play anyway. I still play golf. I still get blisters. I write because I love it. I will keep writing without ever knowing exactly how many times I have been rejected. I do dream of that hole-in-one, but I don't count the blisters.