Was it a burning desire from childhood? Have you fallen into writing through life’s experiences? Maybe you just fancied trying your hand at something different?
Whatever the circumstance that led you to putting your carefully chosen words onto paper – or should I say a keyboard – we all share the same common reasons: we want to entertain and inform; we want to be as good as we are able; we want to impart a story that won’t leave us alone.
So, it may start with an article, a script, short story, or even the brave beginnings of a novel. Whatever medium you have chosen, you read it through, over and over, edit, erase, re-write and, when you have perfected it, you try and home it with its rightful owner … a person or organisation willing to publish it.
Rushing to the hall every morning eagerly awaiting the mailman. Ripping envelopes haplessly to see how much everybody loves your work. Dreaming of the moment you hear everybody on the planet saying your name and how you are wonderful. If you have been writing more than a year, you’ll probably be either reminiscing for those long forgotten memories or laughing so hard your tummy hurts. You know that just isn’t reality!
I remember, in my naïve early writing days, having given up a very good career to concentrate on writing full-time, going to the Golden Rose Awards in Montreux, and meeting a very enthusiastic writer of fourteen years. He was so prolific, concentrating purely on scripts and no other medium, and when he spoke of his work his eyes lit up, his whole persona changing to somebody who was full of excitement. And hope. But when he began to talk about ‘the business’, a cynical cloud fell heavily onto his shoulders, and he ensured me that it would not take much longer until I was jaded as well. Of course, I didn’t believe him; after all, my work was too good for that!
He was right. In my first three years I wrote non-stop. Scripts, novels, short stories; anything and everything. I spent my much-needed savings hopefully packaging and posting them away to whomever I could find. Only to be met with rejection.
Those initial three years were magical in retrospect to the disillusion that began to fill my mind. I tried so hard and, to be honest, that word springs to mind again: I was naive. I’d been throwing my work at people who really were not looking for the genre I was sending, and not researching the market properly. It took another three years to have my first short story published in a weekly magazine – a bizarre experience, actually getting PAID for my work!
But the best part wasn’t receiving the cheque and photocopying it before proudly paying it into the bank: it was the deep realisation that the reason I hadn’t sold anything before that day was because my work wasn’t good enough; it wasn’t what the publishers were looking for. That was the understanding I had needed, and it led to me taking every single piece of work I had written, and reviewing it from a different mindset – that of the reader – before re-writing time and again until I thought it was of a standard that may just sell. Three years later, my first novel was published, but it needed re-writing and re-hashing seven times before I received the letter of my dreams.
The kindling of this article came from a writer who had complained acrimoniously that her work wasn’t being commented on as much as she would like, and it irked me so much that – whilst cleaning the bathroom, as you do – I analysed why this lamenting bothered me so much. After all, we’re always hearing about the famous authors who had their work rejected so many times they papered the downstairs loo with the letters. So why did the rejection of her work cause her such bitterness?
I thought about my own, very full, file of rejection letters, and it dawned on me. If you can’t handle rejection and criticism, then writing is not the career for you. If you want people to read and enjoy your product, you have to accept that not everybody is going to like your work. If you get criticism, it’s because the person who wounded you so mortally didn’t like the piece, not because they hate you so much that they want to hurt your feelings (or, if that was their intention, do you really respect their opinion anyway?). Rejection means that… oh, for fun, let’s have a little quiz here:
a) The piece you’ve submitted purely isn’t written or edited well enough.
b) The piece doesn’t suit the publication or publisher you’ve aimed it at.
c) You’re still under the illusion that writing is easy, not a craft that has to be perfected through years of learning.
I look back at the writing from my early days and can see how childish the prose was … in fact, it makes me cringe to remember that I actually sent it out to people with my name attached to it!
Look at criticism as a bonus: somebody has read your work and cared enough to give you their own opinion.
Rejection is hard, but take a little time away to think about why it didn’t work. If you’re committed enough to your hopes and dreams, your opportunity will come. One day. Have patience. And don’t ever stop learning.
Now, the only way I can finish this piece is to point out that some people will have enjoyed it, some will have learned from it, some will have been annoyed by it, and some will have hated it. That’s life, we’re all different, we all like different things, and if you have chosen writing as your way ahead, you need to accept that.
Please feel free to criticise this, I’ll very much enjoy reading your views. And the best of luck to you all with your own work: if you want something enough, you’ll put in the work to achieve it, and that lucky and happy day will one day be yours.