I took art class four times when I was in high school. That was as much as I could manage—or that the school would allow. In fact, they created an “Art 4” just so I could take the class again and receive credit. Even before high school, throughout my childhood, I was constantly drawing. I think my parents’ attic must have a box somewhere full of used sketchbooks (I’m not sure I want to see them). By the time I graduated high school, I was pretty damn good—really—and I saw the world through a lens of pencil, charcoal and pastel. I even had aspirations to be an art teacher. Well, that all stopped. It’s a long story, and I suppose it’s sad that I don’t draw—at all—anymore. But when I did, when I was in the process of creating something, I never once thought, “I hope this gets ‘published’.” I never once worried about submission or rejection. I drew pictures because I enjoyed it. Upon finishing one, I might have shown it to my parents or a friend, but I didn’t need to. It was often enough to simply finish and see it for myself and then close the sketchbook or start another. I’m a writer now. I’ve also always loved stories—every bit as much as I loved drawing. I usually thought of my drawings within the context of a story, anyway. But it’s hard—difficult to simply enjoy the act of writing, as I did drawing, without anxieties over purpose and recognition and rejection.
I’ve had rejection on my mind recently—since I’ve had a few coming in lately in response to my submissions. I’m mildly bothered by them, but they don’t get me down too much. And this is why: when I first had thoughts about and made attempts at writing, I wasn’t able to fully commit myself to it until I came to terms with the possibility that I might not ever be published. Now, that is not to say that I don’t want to be published or that I don’t want positive recognition for my writing. I want it so badly that I would embarrass myself if I were to go into anymore detail here. But I do accept that it might never happen. When I write, I try to suspend those aspirations and write only for the sake of the story and my enjoyment in creating it. Not easy, but I try.
Of course, though, if you are serious about being a writer you have to face, and deal with, submission and rejection—unless you’re going the indie route, and I’m not even going to begin to touch on that here. I’m not sure how other writers cope with it, but I have a process. It’s full of contradiction and paradox, but I think it works for me—at least in maintaining a semblance of emotional stability. After a piece has been as perfected as I can manage to make it, I find what I think is the right market—both online and print. How I determine this is a subject for another post, but the submission process is long and a little stressful (if you’re sending out multiple submissions, which I recommend). Finding markets, tailoring cover letters, formatting/tailoring the story—it takes a while. In submitting, I need to have a great deal of confidence and hope to get through it and get my work out there. But okay, here it is (the paradox): after I have submitted (with an unreasonable degree of hope), I then abandon all hope of acceptance and force myself to be okay with that. I assume that I have already been rejected. When rejection comes, it’s no surprise and I just keep on writing. When—if—acceptance comes I can celebrate (which may or may not involve copious and forceful weeping).
Look, I don’t pull this off perfectly. Every rejection letter I receive leaves me disappointed. But that rejection doesn’t cause me to doubt my purpose in writing. I write because I love words and stories and, as cliché as it sounds, their power to bring about change—even if that change is only within me. I may have given up drawing, but I haven’t given up art—the act of creation. My work may never get published, but I will still have created something. And that is enough.