The awe-inspiring ladies of my American Night Writers chapter, the Skyline Scribblers, have a saying. Friends don’t let friends publish junk.
I desperately hope they live this credo because I rely rather heavily on their input regarding my various WIP. And while I am eager to take their constructive critiques, I am also a sensitive soul. I cry at sappy love songs, romantic comedies, epic drama, Hallmark commercials, puppies, this list of things that make me cry . . . you get the idea. I don't have television because I don't want to watch the news. And though I get the Washington Post to my inbox each day as an affirmation that I am an informed individual, truth be told, most of the time I just delete it without reading a single word because I know the heartache and depression that are awaiting in the headlines. I tell myself that I am insulating myself from things that don’t really matter to my immediate reality, but I often wonder if that buffer is just the intellectual equivelant of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing Mary Had a Little Lamb.
I am nearing a place in my writing career where I have to either start putting things out into the world for agents and editors to say, "NO!" or acknowledge that this is just a fun hobby I do when I am bored. I'm not sure that my tender little heart can take something as crushing as a rejection letter, but I have seen the photos of mountains made out of letters collected over the years from really fantastic writers. I know it is part of the journey, the initial and potentially never ending hurdles between where I am and my dream come true. So where is the line? Where is the place where you stop being cautious and self-nurturing, and become the ostrich with your head buried in the sand while everyone stands around staring at your backside?
I was listening to a fantastic webinar by James Scott Bell last week and one of the listeners asked a rather remarkable question. She wanted to know, after amassing a stack of rejections some of which had be less than complimentary, when do you give up? Mr. Bell verbally dog paddled for a moment or two and then said (to paraphrase), "You have to answer the question, 'Are you a writer?' Then decide that this is something you are going to do for the rest of your life regardless of whether or not you get published."
I wanted to latch onto this idea so hard and just never let go. How freeing right? "I am a writer because I like to write and it never matters if I ever get published because this is who I am and what I do!" It sounds so great. But what if it is just more padding on the rubber room? What if I am sending junk out into the world and the reason for the forthcoming no’s is that I am just not good? What if I am deluding myself by holding fast to the belief that I am a writer, when really I should be doing other things?
I can’t imagine that I am alone in tackling this particular gremlin. So what helps you along in your creative pursuits, silver linings or the cold rain of reality?
Anika Arrington Necessary Nurture