Sunday, August 2, 2009

Writing After Rejection

It came. The first rejection letter from a publisher.

The envelope boasted my handwriting, since I had to enclose my own Self Addressed Stamped Envelope with the manuscript. It's almost like I sent myself the rejection, as if I told myself no.

But the words inside the envelope were not mine. It was a horrible form letter (which I actually expected), but it aimed to be personal, which is the worst kind. "I'm sure there was something that appealed to me about your manuscript - perhaps it was a good idea, a strong character, or some lovely prose."

"I'm sure there was something..." she said. I pictured her tapping a fingernail to her chin, testing her memory. "What was it... I'm sure there was something."

Frankly, I expected the no. I really did. It's impossibly hard to break into the competitive business of writing, and almost nobody tumbles into a book deal without some heartache along the way. So really, I expected it. And at least I knew. After seven months of waiting, I knew. It's a no. I read it, folded it up, and placed it in my kitchen basket of things to sort through later.

But then came the 'later.' The emotional sorting. I didn't need to open the letter or hold it in my hands; the words were branded in my mind. "I don't think this manuscript would ultimately succeed."

That's not my favorite sentence, that one right there. One's psyche takes a blow after a sentence like that. Yes, I was thankful to have an answer. And I still believe in the manuscript, the story, and its influence. But a few hours later, I found myself questioning. What's the point? Why should I? "I don't think this manuscript would ultimately succeed." It was a scrolling marquis that I couldn't erase.

For a while, for just a bit, I didn't want to write.

But here's the thing: I have to.Writing is like aerobic exercise for my emotions and my mind. Can I live without it? Yes, but I'm healthier when I stick to my training regimen; I'm happier when I have done what I need to do, when I sit down and write. Even when it's hard work, uphill, and the words don't come easily, still it's good for me. I can feel it. And I love it.

Writing after rejection is like getting back in the driver's seat after a car accident. A car accident doesn't mean you'll never drive again, but the longer you wait to get behind the wheel, the more you lose your confidence. I'll drive tomorrow, but just not today. Later. Not yet. Ultimately, I have to choose to claim the task at hand and my role in the process. I have to choose to not be defined by what happened.

I have to.

* * *

"Sometimes you have to fight for the thing that will make you whole."

~ Tully, Firefly Lane

* * *
"A vampire is any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression, but they can assume many seductive forms. Die Vampire, Die."
~ Title of Show


Polly said...

And let's all just remember that because you gathered your courage and sent that manuscript in seven months ago at all, quite a few of us do not get new shoes this month.

But we are yet glad you did. And that manuscript is a GREAT little story, in my very highly qualified opinion.

Sarah said...

Joel has gotten 8 of those said letters. Keep writing, my friend, you don't need a publisher to validate your talent. Those of us who read your blog (and there are many) prove your worth as a writer 10x over. I know I'll be reading tomorrow despite what those pesky publishers say.

by Pat Burk said...

Did you only submit to one publisher? I did that once, years ago, and then never sent anything else in. We're not just talking a few years here. Now my daughter says she will submit things for me if I'll get the poems to her. Don't wait for one of your boys to grow up and pick up the ball! :-) You have a true gift, and there's a publisher out there who will recognize that!

I've always told people who ask me if I've got anything published that I'm good at the writing, but not at promoting myself. Well, that's fine, but the poems don't run out and publish themselves, do they? Darn poems. :-)