Keeping faith with it

You know you should be all ‘adult’ and realistic about it, you knew your chances were slim but that rejection is a big disappointment nevertheless.  Sounds familiar?

How do you cope with the inevitable rejections and non-responses that attend this writing life?  Do you shrug it off and get on with the next project?  Have a good old wallow, shake your fist at the sky/imaginary editors/your loved ones and rail against the injustice of it all?  A bit of both?

And how much importance should we attach to this aspect of writing, anyway?  Should we be purely in it for the journey of self-discovery, the unfolding of our own, particular, linguistic creativity?

Well, don’t ask me.  I’m grappling with all these questions myself at the moment.  I have had some lovely things happen recently *, but I have also had to face the fact that Publisher No. 1 on my wishlist of Presses-I-Would-Love-to-Publish-My-First-Book is not interested.  The specified amount of time has elapsed by which, according to the Publisher’s website, I am to assume my sample of work has been rejected.

I know, it’s crap isn’t it?  The presses and their editors are so, well, hard-pressed, that they have neither time nor money to respond to the vast number of submissions they receive.  I believe them when they say this, I really do.  But it is quite horrible, not knowing for sure, feeling all rejected and insignificant…

…You can tell I’m still at the wallowing stage, maybe?  Julia Cameron has some useful advice in her Artist’s Way (you haven’t read it?  Do!  It’s very useful.  I have to admit, I really really did not accept any of her talk about the ‘Great Creator’, and I cringed at what has by now become a very very familiar language of self-help.  But despite that, she makes sense, has all sorts of really great suggestions for exploring one’s individual quirks and kinks and creative potential – and is possibly responsible for me changing my life-work balance.  Can’t argue with that.)…

…er, sorry.  Right.  The Artist’s Way.  Briefly, she says that in the face of disappointment, we should ask ourselves, “What next?”  I suppose that’s a bit like the “Get back on the hoss” attitude.  Have a stamp and a shout and a wail, shake a few fists, then get back to the stuff that matters.  In my case, I suppose that means get on with the poems.

But also, she has this great story about a director, who tells himself on the opening nights of his films that ” ‘If I can’t shoot 35 mm, I could still shoot 16 mm.  If I can’t shoot 16 mm, then I can shoot video….’ ” (p. 137).  There are always ways to get your work “out there”.  You might have to let go of a few assumptions to do so, but the ways are there…

It is really easy to get wrapped up in the end-product of writing poetry; the giving-readings, the getting-published.  But I didn’t start writing poetry purely because of all that outward stuff (though it is fun, I do love it).  On my desk at the moment is an old poem to which I’ve returned, that has started mushrooming out into something pretty big, something new-old, something strange and exciting.  Something that I really, really want to work on.

That’s what I really do it for.

* Lovely things: I had a lovely chat with the fabulous Wayne Milstead yesterday, which will become a podcast at some point.  I’m teaching at his centre in France in July.  Very exciting!  I’m working on my review for Modern Poetry in Translation magazine at the moment – getting paid to read poetry!  Excellent!


5 thoughts on “Keeping faith with it

  1. I honestly don’t care. I’ve had a few rejectiosn that really hurt, mainly because I wanted that editor very badly, but for the most part I just check that potential person off my list and move on. It’s not a big deal. They’re not sayng my work is the worst they’ve ever seen. I know for a fact it isn’t, cause I’ve seen the rants and sample letters agents have posted on their blogs. I assume it just means that my story probably isn’t right for their press. No big deal.

  2. The sad thing is we all know why we do it. Because it’s what we do. That’s the tragedy of it – you just keep slogging on because you would anyway.

    Uninvoked, it may also simply be that your story isn’t right for right now – you just can’t tell.

    One thing editors have bemoaned to me is that they’ll reject some poems (say) for whatever reason – not right for that issue, nearly did it but not quite – and never hear from the writer again. So where they saw promise and a writer who would probably develop into something, the writer saw only the rejection and went away.

    One editor even linked this syndrome to the complaints he gets of always publishing the same people – that if the only people who ever send again are the ones you accepted first time, how do you get new people? (There are answers to this of course! But I think the link is interesting.)

    Meryl, bad luck, but sounds like the other stuff is going really well! Congrats on the teaching gig in that wonderful place.

  3. Not callous at all!

    Yeah, you’re so right; writing is just what we do, and we’d do it anyway. I’ve tried not writing – didn’t work. I was miserable. More miserable than I’ve felt after any rejection.

    Actually, this idea is something that I find very useful as a counter to the rejection stuff. I would write anyway, so whether it’s published or not makes little difference. It’d still be there, out of my head, on the page.

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