Yesterday, I wrote a piece on writing. From the comments, I gather some readers felt the need to encourage me, to shore me up, as it were. Perhaps they even felt sorry for me. While I appreciate their concern, I fear I might have inadvertently mislead my readers.
For that, I offer my apologies.
The piece was not offered as a voyage down the well of self-pity and I consider it a failure on my part if even a few readers took it as such. At best, it was an update of my current efforts sprinkled with what I thought was humor and sarcasm. Most, if not all, of my writing posts — and there are many — are sprinkled with the same. Some self-deprecation, some flat out humor, some Trump-like bragging (only I don’t mean it), and a bit of rumination about the art itself. It’s never saying “woe is me, the world done did me wrong.”
Some might know I don’t take compliments well. It embarrasses me and I’ve only recently learned to just say “thank you” instead of stepping back from the compliment.
Here’s something everyone should know; I’m even less comfortable taking commiseration or words of encouragement. For one thing, if it’s offered it means I complained about my life. I can’t say I’ve never done it, but I can say if it happens, it’s a slip.
The last thing I want is to mislead someone into thinking I’m in need of encouragement, or being told to I should “soldier on.” I especially do not want anyone feeling sorry for me. I mean, I can’t keep them from it, but I tend to discourage it. There is nothing anyone should feel sorry about.
Where am I going with this? For them concerned that I might be getting despondent and depressed because of rejections, let me clear up a few things about writing. Specifically my writing.
Since last December, when I wrote THIS post, I’ve received some 20+ rejections on my short stories and about that many or more agents declined representation for the novel I am shopping around. In short, everything I sent out has been rejected, passed up on, sometimes ignored. Some of the stories, by multiple markets.
I am not complaining, I am not depressed, I am not surprised, I am not hopeful.
Yes, I would like to get something published. But, what if it never happens? What if I go to my grave with nary a word of my output as a writer ever seeing commercial print?
Trust me, I will have no regrets, I will not be depressed, I will not be unhappy. I mean it; trust me on this one thing.
The goal of getting published is born out of curiosity to see if I can do it. No more, no less.
Achieving the goal will not redefine who I am or add to the value I place on the life I live. Failure will not shake my confidence, will not diminish my life in any measurable way.
I have said it many times before; the primary impetus for me writing is that I enjoy it. That goes for all my writing, but especially my fiction. Ask me what books I read most often, what short stories I read over and over . . . mine.
It’s not ego. It’s not delusions of grandeur. It’s that I know exactly what I like to read, and since I can write it, I do. And then, I read it.
People have told me I write well. I think I write well. It may even be true, but that does not mean I am a marketable writer. It could be I write well but write stuff no one wants to read.
It could also mean that the rules of the publishing game have changed and I don’t play by the current rules.
It could mean that as well as I write, there are large numbers of writers who write better than I do.
Perhaps it’s a combination of all those things. Perhaps, it’s none of those things. Perhaps it’s just chance (what people call ‘luck’) that helps or hinders an individual’s success.
Let’s talk for a moment about this goal of mine. Let’s talk about it in terms of one of my most favorite activities.
Racquetball. In my opinion, there is no greater game. I played for thirty-one years. I got pretty good at it, but I wasn’t the best. Certainly not nationally, but not even in my small circle of players. If there was a goal, it was to get good enough to challenge any players I encountered. That meant raising my game whenever I met someone who outplayed me.
It meant figuring out what would make me competitive and allow me to occasionally prevail in the court. Of the players I battled, I can count on one hand the ones who could consistently beat me. For whatever reason, they were better than I was.
I did not cry myself to sleep, I did not question my value as a human being or my ability as a player. Either through natural ability or through hard work, they were better than I was.
Here is the other thing I did not do. I did not put a lot of effort into becoming the best player that I could be. No workshops, not coaching, no hours of drills, no fitness regimen, no extra effort other than getting on the court and playing. Heck, I didn’t even like warming up.
I did not have, nor did I want, the focus and drive to strive for the upper limit of what I could do. I reached a certain level and I was happy with that. Getting any better would have meant compromises in other areas of my life.
When I got hurt, I walked away from one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done and I never looked back.
As much as I liked it, it did not define me. It was not the totality of me. It was not who I was.
Getting published is like that. If the goal of getting published were important to me, I would attend more workshops, conventions, join writing groups, build a social network, and live and breathe the writing and publishing world.
I would know the names of notables people in the industry, editors, up and coming authors, I would be up on recent sales, would follow and analyze current trends. I would be spending most of my free time doing something associated with improving my chances of getting published.
I am not doing any of those things. I occasionally write. I occasionally send stuff out. I plan on continuing to do that.
“How long?” you ask.
Well, Bob, everything I read about publishing says that even famous authors count their rejections in the hundreds. My arbitrary number, which is also a goal of sorts, is 800. I might change that to 837 just because I like that number better and because I’m trying to fight the bias toward using round numbers for goals. I have no idea how long that will take me. At the current rate, something like 30+ years . . . I’ll likely be dead before then.
Do you see what I did there? I switched from a totally serious to a much less serious tone. But, the 837 number is now gospel. That is my goal for the number of lifetime rejections.
“What if you happen to get something published before then?”
Here’s the thing . . . once you publish one thing, it does not mean you are a shoo-in for everything else you write. Big name authors still get rejection letters. Sure, less than new authors, but getting a few publications under your belt is no assurance of continued publishing success.
That’s the other reason I’m not hung up on publishing. I mean, what is the number of published pieces one has to have to be called a “success”? Or, is it money? I asked this before. Would a writer prefer to write one good thing and make millions at it or write many good things and make millions doing it? Or have lots of readers but make no money?
Here’s a lesson for you youngins out there . . . achieving a goal that drives your life leaves you without a purpose in your life. Some say the pursuit is the worthier thing. They are probably right.
I plan on writing regardless of whether I get anything published, regardless of the numbers of readers on this blog, regardless of anything besides my desire to write and my enjoyment when writing.
In conclusion, I ask my readers the following: if you interpret anything on this blog as me wanting or asking for pity, encouragement, or for any kind of advice, assume you’re missing the subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor I’ve employed in an obviously failed attempt to make my writing entertaining.
Meanwhile, I will add a disclaimer at the bottom of each post stating that very thing.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.
Finally, if you interpret anything on this blog as me asking or wanting pity, encouragement, or any kind of advice, know my subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor is blowing right by you.