write are wonderful creatures. I happen to be blessed with one particular
writing friend who possesses an ability to kick-start my brain (with hobnail
One of those
kick-started pocket-epiphanies occurred recently during an on-line chat.
The realization stunned me so much that I thought I should share it as a
snapshot object lesson on the reality of writing.
As I saw it, I
had been experiencing some trouble putting together anything resembling
decent prose. Of course, I am not a true professional yet, but I like to
think that writing is one of my "natural" skills that has been polishing up
nicely. Still, several months had passed since I had been able to string
words together in anything resembling what I consider my "normal" mode.
did not feel like a case of writer's block. Rather, I seemed to view
everything that hit the screen as lackluster and stodgy, obviously
second-rate. So, I found myself pouring out my troubles to my friend.
course of conversation, I tossed off a comment about feeling a lack of
confidence since one of my submissions came back with a "thanks for trying"
rejection. Now, I know that rejections are a necessary part of the game, and
that taking them in stride is required if you are going to be a writer of
any sort. The fact is, I thought I had handled it pretty well considering
that, in my opinion, the story had been a better than average effort.
However, as my
friend and I chatted, her probing questions made me realize something: I had
suppressed my disappointment.
There were a
couple of things that ran through my head at that point. One is another
published writer friend's rule for rejection: you get 24 hours to be
mad/mourn after a rejection, then it's back in the saddle, but those 24
hours are for being unreasonable, not for rationalization and "moving on."
The other is a saying of Colin Powell's: "Avoid
having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls,
your ego goes with it."
all have heard expressed the dual reality that rejections happen and
rejections hurt. You see it on all the writing boards and both published
authors as well as aspiring authors say it all the time. Still, the
temptation is to deceive yourself and say, "I can take it. It's all part of
the game. A rejection of a story isn't a rejection of me." We try to accept
the realistic necessity of receiving rejections but deny that those
inanimate notices can cause us grief.
though, our stories are reflections of who we are. We use our memories and
experiences, our morals and ideologies, as well as our professional skills
to create them. Plus that little extra, the inevitable part of "me," that we
inject to create a real and engrossing tale.
With all that
we as writers put in, is it any wonder that having it tossed back in our
face can be a crushing experience?
In my case, I
denied the pain, but my confidence wavered. I quit working on the
collaboration with my friend, and other than a few paragraphs here or there,
left writing behind. I no longer trusted my own judgment. The feeling of
lingering inadequacy began to infect other parts of my life. My view of
other efforts began to take on a decidedly negative tinge.
I should have allowed myself that magical 24 hour grieving period. I should
have yelled, growled, and been a complete grouch about it. The feelings I
had needed to be acknowledged and vented. Instead, I clamped down on them
and they festered.
So, the lesson
becomes "it's okay to grieve," with the added caveat of "for 24 hours." I am
sure there are lots of folks out there with stacks of rejections who will
poo-poo such a sentiment but I see it as a therapeutic necessity if I am to
keep the flame burning at all.
addendum, please note that being grouchy, loud, and angry is not everyone's
prescription for the 24 hours. Some folks need quiet time, tears, and
chocolate. Some need exercise. The actual reaction depends on the
individual. The key, I think, is to openly acknowledge the disappointment,
and allow yourself to experience it; but at the end of 24 hours you move on.
Like all things positive and healthy, the key is moderation.
And maybe a
ready supply of Kleenex or a handy punching bag. Ooh, lookie! Chocolate!