This morning I woke up to the blinking green light on my phone telling me some e-mail messages had come in overnight. Aside from a family issue, it was mainly useless stuff except for one more thing: a message from the magazine where my short story submission was pending. I cautiously opened it, waited for my eyes to clear up a bit from the sleep blur, and was immediately fixed on the “we regret to inform you…” bit. I didn’t have to read beyond that. Nobody ever regrets to inform me that they really enjoyed my work and want to publish it.
Despite the fact that I’m immediately running to the arms of my blog for comfort, it wasn’t a surprise nor do I disagree with their decision. Sure, any rejection stings a bit, but that’s the nature of rejection. This was not some amazing work I had been laboring years upon years to perfect. It was not the pouring of my soul onto the page. It began as a job application, an attempt to fit a coherent and complete story into the five-page minimum the employer demanded – with an emphasis on dialogue. It was a video game company I was applying to. I got the sense that the dialogue was the key part. They weren’t expecting Shakespeare or anything.
I actually believed and still believe that for the most part it was done well. The ending was a little quick and easy, but taking it farther would have been more trouble than it was worth. Besides, it fed into the theme pretty well. Yes, my five-page story had a theme. Rejection or not, I think it was a good story, but that was all. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t passionate. It wasn’t me opening a vein and bleeding onto the page. It was just a fun little story. I took it as far as I could and I’m satisfied with that. Submitting it for publication was just a “might as well” sort of thing.
Yet as with a story I’ve poured my heart into, this rejection still hurt. I mean I was glad, after four months in limbo, to finally have an answer, but obviously a yes would have been more welcome. This is ultimately why I sat down to write this article. For me at least, writing is a very intimate act. It is vulnerability defined. Writing is a tough mistress, especially if you’re a bit under-confident like myself. Unless you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece it’s probably going to suck, but by putting your heart and soul into a piece you open yourself up to the tearing apart of that core.
What makes it even worse is that writing is also a very unforgiving mistress. She doesn’t hold your hand when you’re out of ideas. She doesn’t soothe you when you’re convinced that every word you drop onto the page is pure and utter trash. She just stands there, stone faced, while you writhe in agony. That is, of course, what makes great writing what it is – the authorial struggle as they bite and claw their way through the morass of jumbled words to a brilliant and insightful tale.
There have been times when I’ve considered quitting. Bugger it all, the aggravation isn’t worth it! I sometimes think writing is the hardest thing in the world, and it may be. So somebody climbed Everest. They always had the slope ahead of them to follow. They could always feel their progress in the ache of their legs and the agony of their labored breathing. All I have is whiteness. A blank page – and me. This is me against me, trying to coax my innermost self out of an unwilling subject. (By the way, I wasn’t putting down mountain climbers. Those are representative of the thoughts I have while writing.)
I come back again every time, all sorrys and I-love-yous. In the end I don’t write because it’s profitable or because I crave the adoration of my fellow man. I write because it’s in my genetic code. If I didn’t write I wouldn’t exist. I hate to take a turn for the melodramatic, but I write to live. Without it I would be an empty miserable shell with no purpose. Even if my fears were all well-founded and I received incontrovertible proof that my writing was not worth the page or electronic bytes it was printed on, I would still write. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a need.
As I write this I’ve been tearing up. I often do that when I’m engrossed in the subject of writing. There’s no rational reason for such an emotional show. It’s not due to the rejection. I’ve pretty much forgotten about that by now. I just get that way when I talk about things that are impactful to me. The only other subject that brings out that reaction is my many bad experiences with women. That opens up deep emotional wounds. Writing does the same thing. It is at once my torturer and my catharsis. It can at one moment have me balled up in fetal defeat and at the next moment stretched out in the luxurious euphoria of the perfect prose. It is my dichotomy, my split personality. Writing is the Hyde to my Jekyll, or maybe vice versa. It is my sadness, insecurity, pain, suffering all poured out into an ugly mess. But it is also my joy, triumph, love, and hope at the same time.
God I hate writing, but I love it!