Yesterday morning, I made a colossal mistake: whilst I was supposed to be looking up recipes for dinner ideas this week, I made a bad judgment call and clicked on an article I saw on Facebook that details advice from a literary agent.
I’m not fragile (most of the time) when it comes to the literary business. I have, to date, cried over only one rejection letter, and that’s because it detailed, in a page and a half-long letter, everything that was wrong with the scholarly article I submitted. It was intense. I was used to form rejections.
But the thing is, I expect rejection, and that way when it comes, it rolls off my back like water off of a duck. I have no grand illusions that I’ll send a manuscript to a publisher or magazine and receive a glowing email telling me what a brilliant talent I am, how I have changed the course of publishing forever, and how that particular agent/publisher/editor has been waiting for me. (That would be awesome, but it’s not going to happen.)
I am not a snowflake. I am a writer.
To have healthy expectations about rejection and about the challenges of making it in the literary business is a good idea. Perspective is essential to avoid inflated ego, unrealistic expectations, and repeated heartbreak. I have, to date, had two pieces accepted by magazines; I lost count of my submissions two spreadsheets ago. It’s a lot.
But let me tell you: there’s a difference between having those healthy expectations and subjecting yourself to doomsday news about the process of getting published.
I read the article, which was mostly full of good, useful advice, with an open mind. I haven’t finished my first draft yet; looking for an agent is something that is still pretty far off in the future. I found the first few bits of advice helpful, things to add to my list of goals once I finish my draft. But when I got to the end, the helpful nature of the article ceased to exist. There was only doom: your first novel probably won’t get published. Sorry.
I closed the window and let the dark cloud come over me. I’m putting (at this point) years of my life into a project that probably won’t get published, and the only response is a cold and cavalier “sorry”? Writers put their hearts and souls into their work. They think about it all the time. They lose sleep over it. Their partners come to know the characters of their books as if they were real people within their social circle. Countless hours and pages and sacrifices are made. And all we can get is doom and a “sorry”?
The thing is: yeah, it’s true. It might not get published. I realize that. But on the flip side, it might, and if you can’t keep hope alive while you create, the work will reflect that. I have to remember what several successful writers have told me: ignore the business talk. Like Lady Gaga says, you have to shut out the “noise” in order to create. The business end of publishing is toxic to the creative process. It’s also the part we have almost no control over.
So do me a favor, friends. Protect yourself from the business end of things until you’re really ready to deal with it. And until you get there, read these fun articles about writing and stories and life. And then go write and be an artist and worry about the other stuff later.
Monday, September 23, 2013
- Roald Dahl’s birthday was last week, and Huffington Post compiled a great set of life lessons we could learn from the stories he told.
- You know what production company puts out good stories? Pixar. Any cartoon that can make me cry in the first ten minutes (ahem, Up) is a good one, and Toy Story 3 was no joke. I can’t even talk about it. So here are Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.
- When life hands you harsh articles from agents delivering no-nonsense advice with a side of doom and gloom, just turn to BuzzFeed, particularly this list of Expectations vs. Reality for being a writer.