Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Spoonful of Sugar. Or Not. by L.L. McKinney

There are a lot of blog posts about the need to stay positive in the wake of the constant rejection we face as writers. Those posts are right. If you don’t keep yourself afloat in these stormy seas the waves will definitely overtake you, but I decided to go a different route with my “keep smiling” message.

Rejection is the name of the aspiring-writer game. That and 50 Shades of How to Test My Patience, but mastering the ancient art of Hurry Up and Wait, gracefully, is a post for another time. Part of me wholeheartedly believes the rejection we face in the industry inflicts a special sort of pain, because it’s rejection we asked for. Oh yes, we did. I asked for it, you asked for it, and every other writer who’s ever typed THE END has asked for it. We begged for it even, because rejection means you’ve gotten so much further than you realize.
It means you not only finished writing the book—bravo on that alone, by the way—but you polished it (I hope), and worked up the courage to send it out into the world and wait to see what they think of it. Essentially, you handed someone a branding iron then exposed some tender part of yourself for them to sear, cause these things stick with you and man can they buuuuurn.
But, even though we asked for the hurt, this doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it, only that we have to expect it. Expect it to burn. Expect it to bring tears. Expect it to cripple us in ways we didn’t know were possible. And while enduring this part of the game, while stuck in the ugly thick of it, sometimes the last thing anyone wants to hear is "you need to stay positive."
***Real quick disclaimer, the people trying to cheer you up are doing it from a good place. They’ve got your back. Love them for it. Surround yourself with them. They will see you through this. Do not take your frustration out on them, just nod at what you know is the truth.***
However, I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be negative every now and again. It’s okay to kick and scream and cry. It’s okay to throw your manuscript out and say you’ll never write again. It’s okay to wonder why in all that is wise in this universe you thought you could do this. It’s okay to see someone you know get that agent or that book deal and be genuinely thrilled and happy for them, truly you are, but at the same time secretly wish it was you. It’s o-kay. So long as you do it away from your keyboard. Rant to close friends and family only (this could include your critique group), and nowhere near social media. I said it’s okay to be negative, not a douchenozzle.
Not only is it okay to be negative, I think we need to be. You know how after you’ve been smiling for a long time, your face starts to hurt? It’s the same thing with staying positive. You can only put up the front so long before it’s physically impossible to maintain. You don’t wanna get to that point because you'll grow tired and sore and cranky. You'll start lashing out without realizing it. That genuine joy you feel for your comrades will fade to jealousy and resentment. I've had someone say to me "I'm sick of congratulating people who don't deserve it," and that's a dangerous place to be. I’ll repeat one more time, in case someone missed it, or wasn’t sure I said what I said: it’s okay to be negative. But then you have to pick yourself up and go back to being positive. You can’t stay in that dark place. Visiting is nice, cathartic, but don’t do it too often and don’t move in.
Understand the rejections won’t keep you from you’re dream. They’re actually bringing you closer to your goal, but once again that’s a post for another time. None of the negativity will stop you outright, but giving into it completely is the only surefire way to take yourself out of the game. You want that agent? That book deal? Go after it. Keep going. Endure. Smile and be positive, then spread that positivity to others you suspect might be having a hard time. Lift them as you climb, cause we’re all in this together. Hurdle those rejections, scale a mountain of them if you have to. But, and this is important so pay attention, don’t feel bad if you have to privately rip a few up or burn a field of them every now and then to keep yourself sane.

1 comment:

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Great post! Your comments on writers courting rejection reminded me of this recent quote from Diana Gabaldon: "A novel is a hypothesis that you state, one that carries its own experimental design. You test it by unleashing in on the populace."

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