Weathering the Storm

Posted: 09/21/2011 in Horror, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Some days I wonder if I am writer, or if I am really just a masochist who likes words. 

I checked my email before I could get the sweet nectar of the Gods – more commonly referred to as caffeine – into my system.  That was a mistake.  Nothing beats a rejection email first thing in the morning.  Yup, rejection email.  When I first started writing stories, I pounded ’em out on a word processing typewriter and my rejection letters arrived by mail.  Two decades later, if want a rejection letter I have to print it out myself.  Today’s rejection was from Kindle Singles.  No big surprise there, I had already gotten a sense of the caliber of material the editors were most likely looking for and suspected my tale of madness in a world populated almost entirely by reanimated corpses – very hungry reanimated corpses – wouldn’t cut it. 

“Our editors have carefully reviewed your submission, and it has not been selected for inclusion in the Kindles Singles store.  Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider it.”

Sigh.

The rejection slips that at least have a scribbled note of encouragement or a few words which offer suggestions as to how I might improve my writing are like gold.  I welcome those.  But I hate the form letters, the ones that seem to scream INADEQUATE but don’t tell you why.  When I first started writing around the age of sixteen, I had no idea how difficult it would be to become a published writer.  For a kid, I was fortunate to have at least a vague understanding of how prevalent rejection could be, largely from an interview of Stephen King, in which he’d talked about pounding a nail in the wall of his bedroom and spiking his rejection slips on it.  What I had not anticipated was how insidious rejection slips can be.  Their weight eventually exceeds their mass.  My first rejection, scrawled on my own manuscript returned by SASE sometime during the waning years of the 80’s, contained only three words:

Formulaic.  Not bad.

Looking back, the story was an awkward, juvenile, cliched, predictable, monstrosity.  But the “not bad” part kept me writing.  A few years later I received a rejection slip from the Silver Web, edited by Ann Kennedy.  Her handwritten note gave me hope for several years:

Good writing.  Sometimes less is more.

I took her words to heart and worked to use them to become a better writer.  But at some point, I stopped submitting, and not long after, I stopped writing.  I regret those lost years.  Now I am at a point in my life where I can look quite a long way forward and quite a long way backward.  Writers write.  Writers who don’t write, aren’t writers.  I very intentionally renewed my commitment to writing this year, but I had forgotten (or repressed) the power of rejection, and I feel it weighing very heavily on me today.

I read a well written blog post on this very issue yesterday.  In her entry, Sue Healy offers several good suggestions on dealing with rejection for aspiring writers.  I especially liked her analogy of multiple submissions as being ships at sea.  I’ve had many torpedoed into the murky depths and others completely lost, never to be heard from again.  Maybe someday one will return to port.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and keep the zombies shambling around.  They’re hungry, you know.

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