Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wrapping your mind around the big "R"

My editorial calender--remember I said I'd have one?-- tells me that this week I am supposed to write an article on tips for aspiring writers.
In my opinion the biggest hurdle between a writer and their dreams is the big "R." The big "R" is rejection. Some people can't write a page because they are concerned people will reject their story. Others can write a page, a chapter but can't finish the book because they fear some one, some where will laugh at them...reject their words, their work...their soul. Still others finish book after book and hide them away under the bed, in the closet, in the attic without ever letting anyone read them. Why? They are afraid of the big "R." Still others will write a book, send it out and when they get their first rejection-they feel so horrified, so humiliated, they never do it again.
The thing is people assume famous writers never get the "R." I'm here to tell you that rejection goes hand in hand with creativity. I have over 600 pieces of paper- some 7 pages long, telling me why my book isn't "right for them." Each piece hurts like a laceration to the soul. I've been told you have to have a tough skin. I'm here to tell you that I don't have a tough skin. I don't. I whine. I cry. I hurt. I tell my friends- some of whom tell me to "get over it" or "suck it up and quit whining." These are usually people with one or fewer rejection letters. These are people who don't finish books or don't send them out. They imagine that to be successful means you shrug off rejection like a gnat and move on. Then there are those who say- celebrate each rejection with chocolate and champagne. A rejection means you are out there-trying-writing, revising and sending out stuff. Celebration doesn't make it easier either.
I've written 25 full manuscripts-published eight and revised, rewritten and scrubbed so many it hurts. Don't listen when they tell you the fable of being able to sell all those old manuscripts once you are's a fairytale. What those manuscripts are is learning, loving pieces...right idea, wrong time... kind of relationships. They are there to teach you how to wrap your mind around rejection.
So, what about the big "R?" It is the price we pay to walk in the sun. Like a shadow that sticks to your feet, it never goes away unless you stay out of the sun. Sure it's scary. Sure it's painful. But like a shadow is only made in the sun, rejection comes only when you are creative. Bravery is living creatively anyway.
Don't let anyone tell you how you should feel or act or be when faced with rejection. Go your own way-cry, whine, kick, scream, pout, put the work away if you must knowing full well that soon you will write something else and send it out. Pat yourself on the back every step of the way. It's the only real reward...for once you're published, you still get rejections from your agent, your editor and reviewers and readers alike. If you don't, then you're playing it far to safe. So, go ahead, stretch and grow and try and bravely face the hurt and humliation of the big "R" and know at the very least you are living in the sun.

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