Yesterday someone said to me, “You’re a real writer. You have the scars to prove it.” If scars are what qualify you, then I’m definitely in.
Anybody who has ever received no from an editor or publisher (and that pretty much means anybody who has ever sent their work out) knows how frustrating and painful rejection is. You pour yourself into a written work, maybe laying bare more of your own soul than you had planned on doing. Gaack, scary. But that’s the way writing is, so you then spend countless hours honing this work of the soul. Believing it has truth in it that needs to be shared, you submit it to an agent or publisher. And . . .
- You receive a form letter saying, “This does not meet our needs at this time.”
- If you’re lucky, the editor will tell you what’s wrong with your piece. This may or may not be done kindly. Editors in a hurry are not known for tact.
- Very likely you will hear nothing at all, and after a while you conclude that means no.
- And if you’re at all typical as a writer, any of the above will happen to you many times.
I have received all of these responses and non-responses. I’ve also had interested responses that have come to nothing. Yes turns to no. (And I have also received yes that stayed yes.)
What has kept me going during times of discouragement? A belief in myself? No. But I do, truly and deeply, love to write, and I choose topics that matter to me. I guess what keeps me going is commitment to the work. Interest in the characters. Determination to tell their story. And part of telling a story is sharing it with others. So that means submitting the finished work, which also means risking No. Or Does not meet our needs at this time. Or This is good but we don’t think there is a big enough market for it. Or . . . silence. Does it hurt? Of course.
But for me, at least at this point, to quit writing altogether would be more disappointing and difficult than receiving rejection. So I keep writing. In a strange way, the activity of writing is healing, even covering over the wounds that have come from writing. This is not to say that I will never quit, because I do not believe writing is a moral imperative. The time may come for following a different call. But for now, here I am: writing, rewriting, revising, editing, proofreading. Continuing.