Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Writing Rollercoaster

This is an article I wrote in 2009. It was published by Kalkion in 2009.

It all begins with an idea. Something that tugs at you and keeps you up at night. And you think to yourself, okay I have this idea so maybe I’ll try writing it down. And so you write.
Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but you write. When it’s done you say to yourself, okay I wrote this thing and I rewrote it and then I rewrote it some more. You put a lot of effort into it and you think it’s pretty good.

You send it out to a magazine you like the looks of and you wait. And wait. And wait. You check the mailbox every day, waiting.

When the letter finally comes, your hands are shaking and your heart is racing and you’re thinking, this is it. So you tear the envelope open and you read, “Dear Contributor, thank you for your submission but we can’t use this piece at this time. Good luck placing it elsewhere. Signed, The Editors.”    

It’s a big letdown after how you’ve built things up in your mind over the last couple of months. Disappointment hits hard.

So you have a choice. You can either stuff the story in a box, along with the new one you started while the first one was out in the wind, or you can try again. If you’re a writer the answer is obvious.

It’s heartbreaking, that first letter, and even more so when more of the same follow suit. But you plug away because you must, it’s in your blood now and you can’t get rid of it.

You push your way through the rejection letters, the writer’s block, the nagging voice in your head saying you’re wasting your time, the looks from family members when you talk about your stories.

You smile when people say things like, “Oh you’re a writer” or “Well, if I had more free time I could write too.” You pretend not to be offended by the lack of respect for your writing time. You grin, you bear it, you write.

One day you open the mailbox or the email and you get the letter addressed to you personally, by name, and your heart leaps. They still don’t want your story, but you feel closer somehow, that handwritten signature on the bottom means something to you.

It’s not far from that to the first letter asking for a rewrite. Yes, a rewrite. Even though the letter clearly states this is in no way a promise to purchase your story, you rejoice.

Your first thought is to share this joy with friends and family. You call anyone you can think of to spread the good news. Then you write like you’ve never written before, so sure this is your big break.

The wait is even harder this time but you tough it out, using the time to gloat to all those nay sayers. You’re walking on clouds.

When the letter comes you’re so excited you can hardly open the envelope, so sure a contract must lie therein. Instead you find a letter saying they’ve decided not use your story after all. No reasons, no explanations, just thanks, but no thanks.

People you use to bore with talk of your writing are suddenly popping out of the wood works, politely inquiring as to when they will be able to see your story in print. You can only stall for so long before you must shamefully admit that your story won’t be published after all.

This is a moment to test the strongest of wills. You rack your brain, trying to understand what you did wrong, while simultaneously enduring the look of ‘I told you so’ in everyone’s eyes. 

If you make it past this point and still have the will to pound out on the keyboard, to burn the midnight oil, to wear out stacks of pencils, you are finally on your way.

And when the day comes that you actually find yourself staring with stunned delight at a real, live acceptance letter, you have permission to jump for joy. Feel free to dance barefooted in the kitchen, to laugh and cry at the same time, to call everyone you know and politely rub their faces in it.

In short, be a bit of a jerk. You’ve earned it.

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