Writing is about creativity, pure and simple. Yes it does require effort and a bunch of other things but they depend on what you want out of it, if you want anything at all. Writing to get published, though? That involves, and this list is not exhaustive:
Creativity, effort, waiting, heartache, mental breakdowns, waiting, headaches, self-doubt, waiting, some more waiting and then, just to top it all off neatly, you get to wait around a little. I don’t know if being published is somehow a tremendously British activity or something, but it sometimes feels a hell of a lot like being in a queue.
You send off a submission and, unless you’re sending it to an editor, agent or publisher who literally has NOTHING ELSE TO DO, (which would be a bad sign) you start to wait. Then you start to think. Then, if you’re really into kicking yourself, you might even start to read back over what you’ve done with such a critical eye it would make Anne Robinson spontaneously detonate in rapturous pleasedness. You’ll start to notice “errors” that may or may not be there and start wondering why the feedback helicopters weren’t immediately scrambled to your house to bestow upon you wealth, riches and fame, possibly doing something incredibly fun to your underpants region while they were at it.
Before long you’ll have decided that you suck, that the editor is some sort of faeces demon and then promptly burst into tears, vowing never to write again unless someone really needs a eulogy.
Hopefully you’ll have someone around you to pat you on the back, offer a little reassurance and remind you that agents, editors and publishers are busy and, this is a vital piece of information by the way, that they WANT to publish you. They aren’t being cruel or stupid, not that they never make mistakes, but every publisher wants to get their hands on the next Harry Potter. Or DaVinci Code. Or Tw… Twi… Twwwwwiiiiliiiiiiigggg… You know what I mean. Please, don’t make me say it.
The trick, one which will take some longer than others and some of us may never learn at all, is to get your chin up and carry on, taking that bad feedback or constructive criticism on board. If you fail, feel free to rant (somewhere the publisher won’t know you’ve just compared them to an enormous vaginal wart), cry or smash your head repeatedly into a punch bag.
If you get a rejection letter, read it. Keep it. They took the time to write it (or at least send it) so treasure it in the same way a young lad values his scars. They might be symbols of a time where something didn’t go 100 percent according to plan, but they mark a time where you tried. Take pride in that fact. One day, hopefully, that rejection letter will hang on the wall of a published author as a reminder to remain humble.
If we didn’t think our work was worthy of being published then we wouldn’t have sent it, so we have already put a value on it to ourselves. Having that scrutinised and deemed unworthy hurts, quite frankly, and it will take time to develop thicker skin, but the only way to develop that thick skin is to keep going. Take on board whatever feedback you do receive and be grateful for it, perhaps even sending back a quick email to thank them for their time. It might not make a difference but it certainly will do your reputation no harm.
I am currently waiting on news from a couple of sources. I have a submission in for Black Library (for which I am, sadly, expecting to have not made it this time, partly due to my own pessimism) and one in for Spectral Press, who have a Christmas ghost story anthology in the wings. That one I’m more hopeful for I think as the story seemed to really work for me, but we will see. As and when the deadlines expire or the rejection letter arrives I will sigh sadly, take it all on board and carry on, stiff upper lip and all.
That said, I will also really throw my weight into every punch, kick, knee and elbow at my next Muay Thai class. Well, we’ve all got our coping strategies, haven’t we? If you haven’t I strongly recommend that you get one. It will certainly help stop you sounding like a diva next time you get a rejection letter in your inbox.
I know a lot of the advice you’ll get from me is to just carry on but, like it or not, that is some damned solid advice. Head down, keep your chin close to your chest and keep moving forward, come what may. Keeping going when you feel like you’re failing or at best only just treading water is HARD. It’s soul destroying to put your heart and soul into something and be told it isn’t good enough but that, believe me, is what is happening to everyone else.
Some see those rejection letters as a permanent and unchangeable statement that you are not a good enough writer to be published. Others, those with a greater chance of success in my opinion, will see them as speed bumps and hurdles on the way. That is of course not to say that keeping going on its own is the key to success, let’s not oversimplify things here, but unless you are one of the very few (who probably don’t exist at all) who can hit the target first time and land yourself an instant career, it is a skill that you WILL NOT succeed without.
No-one ever achieved any worthwhile goal without any effort now, did they?