Thursday, October 28, 2010

Being a Writer is a Nuisance

Why being a writer is a bit of a nuisance, by Captain Monkeypants

1. Because it’s hard. Even when you want to write you
a. Don’t have time for it.
b. Have time for it but suddenly feeling like watching those episodes of “Parenthood” that you have on your DVR.
c. Have puppies who don’t understand why their ‘mother’ is sitting at a weird contraption hitting buttons when they want to play.
d. Discover that Microsoft Word is going to freeze up on you and even if it’s done an auto-save, it’s not auto-saved the fabulous paragraphs you just wrote and you’ll never remember.

If you do actually write, there’s the inevitable question of “Why am I writing.” In my earlier writing days, the rush and thrill of creating something, of creating worlds on paper was enough. Now, as I’m nine books in, I’d love to say I still get that rush but I’ve been out there in the real world and it’s just not as easy to stay wide-eyed and bushy tailed in hopes that the first time you submit it, you’re going to get published because it’s fabulous.

Here’s the thing. It may be fabulous. It may be well written. It may just land on the desk of the editor or agent or publisher at the wrong moment. They may just have read a book that they liked or seen a movie and suddenly, that’s what they’re in the mood for at that moment. So when they read your query letter, they’re just not in the mood for that particular kind of book/story and so they send you back a rejection.

To them, it’s just a casual response. To the writer, no matter how often rejections happen, they still sting.

It’s interesting. My new job as an IT recruiter means that I’m constantly trying to help people find jobs and, at the same time, fill positions we currently need to fill. Sometimes they match up. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, I get calls from people who are desperate and out of work and really need a job but when you look at their resume, they haven’t done very much, if anything, in IT at all. They may have used a computer in their life or they may have been able to replace the keyboard on their dad’s computer but it doesn’t mean they’re qualified to work at a help desk.

It’s hard when you get a candidate like that. I want to help them but, really, they’ve called the wrong office. We help Information Technology professionals find jobs, hence the “IT” in “IT recruiter”. I’d love to find everyone a job but it’s just not possible. Also, if they’re been doing something like Help Desk/Technical support and they suddenly want a job as a database programmer, it’s just not possible if they haven’t actually done any database programming.

The point of this is that this type of thing happens to me several times a day, in between juggling candidates who are qualified for jobs and people running into my office needing me to change my direction and start trying to find candidates for a completely new job we just had open up. Yet, each time, when I get a call from an unqualified candidate, I do my best to put aside my frustration and really hear them out. Each one of them is a human who just wants a job. Sure, there may be times when I’d rather work on getting actual qualified candidates into jobs because that’s how I earn my money but it doesn’t hurt to talk to people for even a few minutes just to see if maybe, just maybe their resume is just bad and they actually are qualified.

I’m not comparing this to an agent/editor/publisher, exactly. Unlike my 4-5 calls a day from unqualified candidates, they deal with hundreds, even thousands of submissions a day from unpublished writers. They can’t talk to each one individually. They just don’t have time. They have time to scan the query letter, decide if it suits them and move forward or, more likely, send a rejection.

On the opposite side of the fence to this is the writer, in this case, me, who has sent my novel/short story to them in the hopes that they’ll stop and read it and think, “oh, this sounds promising.” Instead, what usually happens is that they skim the letter, think, “Oh, well, this isn’t what’s selling,” and send the rejection.

It’s sad but true. Sure, vampires are selling now but five years ago, it was dragons and wizards. What is hot now will not necessarily be hot in five years.

I suppose what I’m saying is that sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair. I have so many rejections, there are times that I wonder why I write. I’ve mentioned that before. It’s disheartening. I know the optimist in me always hears, “You can do it! You just have to keep trying!” but sometimes that optimist drowns underneath a sea of rejections.

And I know it’s not because I’m a lousy writer. For a while, I let my self-doubt believe that. I know I can write. It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence. Like a singer who can sing or a dancer who can dance, I’m a writer who can write. Being a writer and submitting something is like going to an American Idol audition, I imagine. There are thousands upon thousands of other hopefuls. The wackiest ones make it to the judges so that their ridiculousness can be mocked on national TV. The pretty ones make it because even though they may not be the best singers, they’re decent and they look good. Some of the power-house singers make it because they’re that good. Yet for the thousands you see lining up to audition, we, as a TV audience, see, maybe less than 10% of those and that 10% includes the worst of the worst.

So you can’t tell me in that other 90%, there aren’t some really, really good singers who got missed because they weren’t boisterous enough or they didn’t have a sad story like a mother who has cancer. I’m not knocking or mocking those that have sad stories it just seems like those are the ones we always see on TV because they make the best drama and, let’s face it, people like drama. In that 90%, how many of them are good but they’re not TV worthy?

What happens to the 90%? Some of them re-audition the next year. Some of them give up. Some of them realize that maybe they’re not a TV singer and find somewhere else to sing. Yet if their dream is of becoming a recognized music artist, chances are they’re going to have to get on TV at some point and thus begins the downward spiral of them trying to figure out what they did wrong.

It might be that they simply aren’t good enough. That would take away a huge portion of the leftovers. Yet maybe they are and then what? I suppose my point is that, as a writer, the biggest nuisance is trying to stay positive, to not let the rejections sink you because if you’re good enough, you know it. There’s only so many times you can submit something, get rejected and still think that the agent/publisher/editor just wasn’t in the mood.

Of course, when you submit anyway, chances are, they’re just reading a query letter and they judge you on that. Just like on American Idol, you get just by a couple of moments of singing. It’s not enough. In the end, you end up with seven+ seasons of a show where the only winner who succeeded was from the very first season. Everyone else who has done well on that show didn’t actually win; the winners turn into Top 40 radio standbys but without any real presence. It’s not about the singing, it’s who can make the money. I think the writing world is the same way. There are plenty of writers who can’t actually, um, write but they can sell books. It’s writers like that who make it hard for writers like me. I self-published. It’s freakishly hard work to get yourself out there. Still, I’m trying.

It’s just a huge nuisance. Ah well, at heart, I do it because I love it and that's the important thing.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween!

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