I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a cynic. It’s not that I don’t see the good in things or that I don’t appreciate a solid, whole-hearty lesson or two, but when failure rears its ugly head, my vision clouds with pessimism.
Last January, I submitted a short story to a well-known literary magazine and was turned down. My hopes weren’t high, as I had been rejected by them before, but I thought “hey, let’s try again – nothing good ever happens without risk!” Of course, I’m not the first to quote that. Most writing forums recite the same mantra, occasionally throwing in a “so-and-so was rejected five gazillion times before making it big”, but none of that takes away the initial sting of rejection. It doesn’t make better the fact that someone thought you weren’t good enough, and that what you poured your soul into wasn’t memorable.
And that hurts.
So, when I found the word “Complete” (a supposedly humane way of saying “thanks, but no thanks”) next to my online submission, I found myself burrowing into the well-known pit of doubt, accompanied by my friends “Ben & Jerry”. Were my ideas really that bad? Was I not philosophical enough? What is it about my writing style that leaves reader’s wanting?
The outcome of these pity parties is always that same: I would never amount to anything as writer and it was time to accept that.
Dark, right? But I can’t accept that this kind of negative self-talk only affects me. It’s a vain and vicious cycle of which I’m sure many struggling writers can relate. Since I’m a very visual person, I pieced together this beautifully drawn flow chart of my writing process using
MS Excel a very technical program (college education at work right here).
So, what’s the point of writing if my work is never published? At these low moments, I try to remind myself why I labored, night after night, over something that an editor would later toss in the trash without a second thought. Why had I given birth to these characters with whom I laugh, cry, hate, and pity?
The reason is always simple, yet it takes me weeks – sometimes months – to realize it. I do it not to earn the approval of a complete stranger, but because it’s enjoyable. Every time I sit in front of a blank screen, I have the opportunity to escape into a completely different world where I am the all-powerful overlord. Who wouldn’t want that?
So until the process loses all pleasure, I’ll keep writing. Maybe I’ll see my name on the cover of a book and maybe I won’t. Either way, the stories will have fulfilled their purpose as an outlet for my rampant and never-to-be-shortchanged imagination.