Thursday, February 26, 2009

Drowning in the Undertow of Rejection....

So, last week, I promised that I'd be more more positive this week. Unfortunately, given that my DMV rants aren't exactly a beacon of positive energy, I think I may have been a bit premature in my promise. Especially as today, I have a feeling I might be a little less than positive.

I got a rejection last night. When I saw it in my email box, it didn't phase me because though I knew it was rejection, I'd honestly forgotten I'd even submitted to the publication and thus, clearly didn't hold much stock in it.

Then I opened it. It was for a literary magazine that has a rather nice policy of having several reviewers read submissions, supposedly 'blindly' and then when you get rejected/accepted, you get to see their comments. I've never had this before. I had entered a short story of which I was proud. It was more literary than my usual efforts. Granted, it hadn't taken me too long to write but then, my best stuff never does.

The first comment was overwhelmingly positive. The rest...well, let's just say that by the time I was done reading, I wanted to cry. I know it's all supposed to be constructive criticism but it wasn't constructive at all. It made me feel like a complete amateur, as though I didn't know what I was doing. It picked on my writing, said it was stiff, that my word choices didn't suit the reviewer, that they thought the subject was silly. The piece I was written was supposed to be slightly quirky, slightly poignant, slightly wistful. Apparently, it was none of these things. The things that were criticized were intentional. I was told "It was too ethereal, too dreamy, too much in the character's head". Well, oddly enough, the piece was a story about a man in a coma and the odd places his mind took him, places connected with his life. It was actually based on a friend's memories from a three-week coma in which she had been trapped. By the time I was done reading the comments, I felt as though I'd been beaten, bruised with the might of a thousand critical words.

The problem with getting emails like this is I think about them too much. They force me to take stock of my life and that's not such a pretty thing when I think about my writing. I've written novels. I've written short stories. I haven't had any luck getting anything published. I get rejection after rejection. The people who read my stuff like it but they're usually people I know, people who's opinions I value until I step back and think too hard about it and then I start wondering if they feel obligated to be nice about my writing.

In truth, I'm feeling a little like a failure again. I know it shouldn't matter. I've said before in my blog that I love to write. I do. That counts for something, I know. Yet I have this horrid fear that like one of those kids who audition for American Idol, kids who've been told their whole lives by their loved ones that they should be a professional singer. Yet, when they get their chance, they reveal that they're actually terrible, that they have no talent at all.

It's crushing. I don't have much to show for my writing career except a few finished products, a couple of articles published in an online magazine and a stack of rejection letters. The best use of my writing is for academic papers for friends. They give me an outline, I turn it into a paper. That's the extent of my whole writing existence.

I want it to be so much more. I've always said before that I'll appreciate it more when I do have success but the whole process is so brutal that I'm beginning to wonder if I'll be able to make it to that point. Apparently what I think is good writing isn't, it's merely mediocre. It's times like this when I feel that my grip on my dream of being a published writer is precarious at best. I'm not fond of clichés , but I'm forced to think of the one of the tree falling in the forest and nobody hearing it; does it still make a sound? As a writer, if I write a novel and nobody reads it, am I still a writer or just someone who puts words on a page?

So much for being more positive. I apologize profusely for being a huge downer. Yet part of the reason I started this blog was to deal with the ups and downs of trying to be a writer. Today, it's a down, one that's so low that I'm wondering how I'll get back out of it. I know criticism is supposed to help but it stings. Eventually I'll probably be able to read it and learn from it. For now, I'm not at the point. In all honesty, the process is beating me down and I can't seem to find that passion for writing that usually floods through me. It's drowning in a pool of negativity.

I have to get out of it but I'm not quite sure how. I can't keep asking my friends and family to be my pep squad; I've already had a couple of friends hint that maybe if it's this hard, I should give up which never helps my fragile self-esteem because then I start to believe that they secretely think I'm a bad writer and they've only been supporting me because they feel like they have to. It's a downward spiral. I keep waiting for something to grab onto, something to give me a little hope but everytime I put myself out there, I just end up spiraling even further down. Does there get to a point in which you've hit rock bottom and there's no way up, that I just have to accept that I'm deluding myself?

I don't know. I don't want to think that. I think if I did, I probably wouldn't be trying to rationalize it in a blog, a place where I am, in fact, still writing. I'm going to try to keep going because, in all honesty, I'm not sure what else to do.
Then I remember that I have this quote from a calendar pinned to my message board and I pinned it up for times like these. It goes:

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that say's I'll try again tomorrow." - Mary Anne Radmacher.

When I read this quote, I tell myself that what I'm doing is really courageous, that by constantly trying, I'm still accomplishing something. As long as I remind myself to try again tomorrow, I haven't given up, that tomorrow, I'll find that glow that a good day of writing gives me because I do believe it's still inside me, no matter how many rejections try to kill it.

I will try again tomorrow because that's all I can do.

Happy Thursday.

1 comment:

Samantha Elliott said...

O Captain, my Captain, I'm sorry you're down.

I did an optimistic blog post on rejection several months ago. It's very out-of-date (as I've received several rejections since then), but it might make you feel better...if you don't find it trite.

But in that case, at least you can laugh at my folly and naiveté, right?

I do know what you mean about finding it hard when people criticize what you did intentionally, though. It feels like: if they catch your oversights, it's a simple mistake; if they don't like what you meant to do, it's personal.

My tiny bit of wisdom is this: So long as it pertains to the integrity of the piece you've created, don't change a thing. Some critics my not love it, but others will (as did the first reviewer you referenced). Focus on those that share your vision, not those who don't "get it."

And keep on keeping on!