Bizarro fiction writer with a non-existent pet dog that never stops barking. Or doesn't.

I know

July 16th, 2011

I know. Writing can be a form of punishment. Writers create scenes and worlds and stories that light our imagination. We create characters to love, to hate, to despise and to even cheer at his or her demise even in light of a happy or sad or surprising ending. And we share. At least some of us create to share with the world and sharing can be the most brutal ecstasy that any sane person can endure. It is the scariest thing in a writer’s process to let something loose upon the world and wait with unease and apprehension until someone, anyone accepts and likes anything (something) that we write. More times than not, the first reaction isn’t the most positive one.

I know. Sharing is an evil, a big, nasty scary one. An often-repeated cliché is “You can’t please everyone.” Yet, we want to. We really, really want to. No one wants readers, or fans, or other aspiring (or professional) authors to tear apart a story or plot or even a simple idea. We can all strive to stand tall in light of negative press, but the truth is we want to be accepted. An appropriate stance is to know, to really know that only a percentage of readers will get, or like, or enjoy a story. And those might never share their bliss with the author. No. Negative comments always float to the top of our day like a dirty oil spill on the face of our success.

I know. An email or letter with an acceptance from a publisher is one of the most prized things a writer can ever get. It’s validation that someone else gets it. Unfortunately, most of the feedback we get from the publishing world isn’t so pleasant. I want to learn and grow from the steady stream of rejection, I do. And I feel blessed that I have gotten a few responses that were more than a simple form rejection. It’s a warming feeling when editors take an extra minute to explain what they liked (or didn’t like) about a particular submission. It’s special to me when he or she (the editor) asks for me to submit something else in the future.

I know. Well, I’ve come to know that not everything I write is good or not good for everyone or every market. I want everything to be, but that’s just not realistic or healthy. One the most important lessons any of us can learn is that everyone can’t be happy with everything. It had to be force-fed to me. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s not easy to accept. But that’s OK. Once you realize it, you can get through almost anything (creatively anyway). The world doesn’t melt against our will when someone says no thanks.

I know. We’ve all had that story that we love. The one we worked so hard on. The one we think will change the worldview of fiction in a few thousand words. So, we set it out into the market and anxiously wait for the bartering to begin. Except that it doesn’t. No one gets it. No one likes it. And everyone says, “This isn’t for us, good luck placing it elsewhere.” It stings, it hurts and we want to believe that they are all on some reality-altering drug that displaces realism with their slanted form of disillusion. After all, our story is perfect. But it’s not. And that’s OK, too. What’s important in all this chaos? You, the writer, are creating new and unique ways to say old and mundane things. And you are sharing with the rest of us. Someone will get it and someone will like it.

I know. I wrote a short story a few years ago that was really closer to flash fiction than a short. Even with my minimalist style, I can rarely do a solid job at storytelling in less than two thousand words or so. But I liked it and I sent it out to magazines and publishers. It didn’t change the world. I hope everyone else is as persistent (or as hard headed) as I am because I didn’t let that get me down. And I didn’t rewrite it. While I went on to other stories and ideas, that one stuck around. It poked at me in the dark and I believed that there was a market for it. Recently, a publisher did accept that short story that no one else liked. Someone else saw the same thing I did or they saw it with a different eye than all the others that had passed on it before.

The lesson is simple: Not everyone will like what you create. The beauty is that someone will. Once you realize and embrace that, you will be successful even if you never sell anything to anyone. Persistence is key and there is a market and a fan base for everything. I know and I’m glad that my hard head is soft enough to learn the lessons that are so obviously waiting for me out there.

Categories: Main