Let the cognitive dissonance begin… (I link to Wikipedia out of laziness. If you’re really interested in the theory there are lots of good psych books out there on the subject. Read them.)
As was expected, I’ve received my first short story rejection. (And I didn’t catch any trout this weekend either. Suck.) It was a form rejection, too, not a “wow, this was so close rejection.” Fair enough. It’s my first short story submission. And it was to a top market. This isn’t supposed to be easy.
Now’s when all the psychological fun begins.
See, before I submitted a story I could tell myself that everyone would love my writing and the only reason I wasn’t published yet was because I hadn’t sent it out.
Now it gets interesting. (Well, maybe not with this one submission, but at this stage where a writer is trying to get published and being rejected.)
There are a few approaches I can take to resolve my feelings:
- Decide that this whole writing thing is stupid and I didn’t really care that much about it anyway and walk away. (Not my style, but a common reaction to failure/rejection. “I didn’t really want to be on the basketball team, I just tried out for the hell of it. Whatever.”)
- Decide that the establishment is just incapable of recognizing my true genius and rail against their inability to see the brilliance of my prose. (Also not my style, but something you definitely see on the forums in one form or other. “They only publish commercial crap.” “They’re not willing to take risks and allow new voices.” Yada, yada, yada.)
- Decide that the establishment is incapable of recognizing my true genius and use that genius to discover the secret formula to success and laugh maniacally as I cash their checks for the stories I wrote to please them. (Closer to my style, alas. I will likely become one of those people who has a detailed theory about what each market publishes, but I don’t think I could force myself to write just to please others. There’s a reason I was never popular after about 5th grade and why I was on the extreme range of that whole subject-to-influence personality test.)
- Realize that finding a home for a story is just like finding a good relationship and keep submitting the story until I find the right home for it. (This is where I probably am right now. I still have faith in the story that got rejected. The story is…odd. And not in a way I’ve seen yet in the SF/F short stories I’ve been reading, so there was no obvious market for it, but I have an idea of where to send it next.)
- Recognize that I’m just getting started and my writing may not be at a professional level just yet and that I need to keep working on it. Which means read more, write more, and think more. (I’m also sort of here. I still think the stories I’ve sent out are at a publishable level, but I could be wrong. You don’t know what you don’t know. I could have all sorts of awful errors in my stories that I don’t even see. I figure I’ll really be here when I’ve racked up about thirty or forty form rejections.)
For me, the key is to keep going. It’s so easy to quit, so easy to decide that you didn’t really want something. And there are too many people out there willing to support that attitude, so I know that if I’m going to do this I have to be the one who keeps pushing myself forward. No one else will.
(Now, if we were talking about marriage and kids, you can bet my mom and grandma would be right in there urging me not to give up on it. But a solitary life as a writer? Yeah, not so much. At least they’re better about the writing than they were when I took up skydiving…)