States of Rejection

As promised last week, I’ve decided to write a piece today about the difference between personal vs. impersonal rejections. This post will probably be shorter than the last because this topic is one that can run away from me if I let it, so I’m going to try to keep it reigned in.

When you send a work out to be considered for public consumption, no matter the medium and no matter the channel you use, you are basically putting a piece of yourself out there for the world to pass judgement on. This, of course, isn’t news to any of you who have done it before, because you’ve definitely felt that pressure. The next part, the wait, can be the hardest for some people. You’ll try to take your mind off of the fact that there is a piece of your work floating around out there waiting for someone to deem it worthy to be seen in their particular publication or venue, but it will be next to impossible. For the weeks (or, most likely, months) you will have to seriously focus yourself on not dwelling on the possibilities at hand.

Once that letter (or email, as is often the case these days) comes in you’re likely going to find your heart in your chest and your bladder ready to burst until you build up the courage to open it. What you find inside, as I mentioned last week, can be something that will change your life in one way or another if you let it. Best case scenario, of course, is that you’re accepted, possibly even with some positive commentary which will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But then there’s that other case…

Should you receive a rejection, there are a couple of types you may get. The less common type of rejection will come with a nice (hopefully) helpful note attached that may give you some tips on how to improve either that work specifically or your style in general. These types of rejections can make you feel as if you’ve actually just spoken to a friend about a piece and they’ve managed to give you some healthy feedback that will hopefully leave you none the worse. Granted, there are the occasional unprofessional and unkind personal rejections that may contain negative feedback or even a hurtful comment.

If one of these harmful rejections shows up in your hand, you may be tempted to take everything they say to heart- some may even be tempted to take that as fate and stop writing altogether- but the latter is NOT the way to react. Should you receive a negative personal rejection the best thing to do is tear the words apart in your head. Find a positive in it somewhere. If the editor tells you that you need to work on getting your dialogue to sound like people talking and not cavemen muttering, then your goal is to work on dialogue. If they tell you that your character development is about as flat a Patriots football (I couldn’t help it), then you know that you need to work on character development. The bottom line there is that no matter what the negative rejection says, you have to try to find some way to put a positive spin on it and turn it into constructive criticism.

Now, the most common type of rejection in the current market is going to likely be the hardest to handle. It is the impersonal, standard, run-of-the-mill piece of mail that tells you that your work couldn’t be used. Although there are a few formats of this type {1. We couldn’t find a place for your work in this issue 2. Your work isn’t what we are looking for 3. We aren’t able to use your work at this time, etc…) it all boils down to the same thing; you didn’t get in. The reason I think this form of rejection is the hardest is because it leaves you completely open to interpretation. By not giving you any sort of feedback the editor is letting your mind, already taxed by having to wait for a response, run rampant with the attempt to come up with a solution for why you weren’t able to be published.

This can be quite dangerous. Without being given any reasons why your work wasn’t accepted into one publication or another, you may begin to tell yourself many harmful things. For instance, with my first rejection I told myself that my work was just terrible and that I had no business writing because no one would want to read my work anyway. This is NOT the way to think about it. When receiving an impersonal rejection, the best thing to do is tell yourself that this particular publication just wasn’t for you. Keep your rejections somewhere you can view them – particularly if they are personal, because they will help you to remember to always keep your mind on the areas your work may need a little support.

As an artist of any kind, rejection of a piece of our work can literally feel like the editor is telling us that we aren’t talented and that the piece isn’t fit to be viewed. That is because, no matter how harsh the world is, we are our own worst critic. We will be harder on ourselves than anyone else would ever imagine being, because we feel the true passion that led us to this work. We feel the connection with this work that makes an insult to its composition almost feel like a slap in the face. It is that very passion that should keep us from giving up. We feel strongly about the piece because we know what is behind it, we know what went into it, we know it has worth and we know that it deserves to be seen. So that’s really the point. No matter what kind of rejection you get, it should never make you give up. Whatever you are told (or not told) should only encourage you to further the work on the piece and try again, even if it with another location, if only to prove the person who rejected you wrong. Your work comes for a reason. It demands to be completed because it has a purpose. Somebody out there needs that piece, and it is your job as the artist to make sure they get it!

The Influence of Doubt

As I said in the comments of my last post, doubt can be a very detrimental thing to a writer, but it can also be very powerful. As artists (and human beings in general) one question that is likely going to come up time and time again while we do our work is “why”. It’s a simple enough word, a simple enough question, but the answers to it almost never are. When it comes to something that we are passionate about, asking ourselves why can be the difference between succeeding and failing miserably, achieving a goal and fall short, and happiness or a permanent sense of failure. You might look at that statement and think I’m being a little dramatic, but think about it. How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something just by asking yourself why you would do it, or what good would come of it?

Have you ever attempted to take on a task that you felt strongly about and then gave up on it because you questioned it? I’d be willing to bet we all have.

Whenever we are presented with a thought that develops into a real desire we must consider everything about the possibility before us. Whenever I am getting the idea for a new piece settled down and trying to hammer out the details one thing I try to look at is just how well I think I can develop a piece about the particular topic at hand. When I started writing Maverip (the magnum opus of my budding career) I felt very confident in the work I was doing. Having been a lover of the paranormal my entire life, with a particular interest in vampires, working on that piece just felt RIGHT.

Speaking from the point of view of someone who has completed many other works since the start of that series I can easily say that it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes you get an idea and you can feel that the idea is just absolutely awesome but once you sit down to actually work on it you question your ability to do it correctly. This is often the case with some people, unfortunately. We will begin a new project, perhaps one that is just outside of our comfort zone or slightly off center from our typical line of work and we will be plagued by the thought that, since it isn’t the same thing we always do, we will be unable to make it work for one reason or another. Often my own bit of doubt is that, upon completing the piece, whomever reads it will absolutely hate it and I will be little more than a failure. In the case of Maverip my doubt has really only kicked in fairly recently, but it is that I won’t be able to make a convincing argument for my piece and that, either in the advertising of the book or with the presentation itself, I will fall short and no one will take the time to check it out. But that is a different post as well.

Regardless of whether or not you feel doubt, the real clincher is how you react to it. So often people will just give up and stop the work the second they get that first hint of doubt. This is one of the most self destructive behaviors I have ever seen. Doubt acts as a cautionary emotion for us, guiding us in the right direction and helping ensure that we don’t take the task at hand too lightly. Unfortunately people don’t always see this. I have spoken to a number of people who have had the desire to do something, be it writing or painting or any number of other things, that have never acted on the desire because they doubted themselves, feeling that they would never be able to perform their desire well enough to suit others or consider themselves a success. This is rubbish. When looking at doubt one must never allow it seep into their psyche to the point that it interrupts the passion that is kindled there. This is such a terrible waste of talent and opportunity. As a matter of fact, for those readers who have a religious background, think back on the parable of the talents that we are told in Matthew 25; 14-30. Three men are given talents and each of them treats the gifts differently. Two of the men use the talents given and get more in return, gaining the favor of their master, while the third buries his, not using it for anything and returns it to his master alone.

The basis of this story is one that can easily be rendered applicable even to those who don’t look at the religious aspect (or choose to adhere to a different belief system). Basically what it says is that when you have something and you don’t use it, you get nothing from it. Would you buy a car just to put it in the garage and never look at it or drive it? Would you buy a house just to let it sit on its plot, never lived in or used? Would you buy food just to let it rot and go to waste with no intention of touching it? The answer to those questions was likely no, right? If not, I’m personally glad someone with such a financial blessing is reading my blog, but I must discourage the behavior! The same mindset should be applied to this. If we are so blessed to have a passion for art (or anything really) we cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged!

Doubt can be one of the scariest things you can experience as an artist of any kind, but it is also well worth the fight. If you give up on a project every time you doubt your ability or the possible outcome of your efforts, chances are you will never know what you are capable of. However, if you push through the mire of this heavy and scary feeling it can be replaced with the satisfaction of completing the work in question and having it taken beyond where you thought it could go.

By pressing through the doubt the weighted me down for the days before sending it, I was able to see my very first piece in print in a small, nonprofit circulation five long years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Such is the case with many incredible talents. Even the horror master himself, Stephen King, was plagued with such doubt that he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash. His wife retrieved it and, after looking through it, convinced him that, rather than giving up, he should trudge on. She recognized the potential in the work (as well as the man himself) before he even did. Carrie went on to become King’s first published novel and has since had three movie adaptations, one spin-off sequel and countless stage performances. And it was literally plucked out of the trash.

The rewards for overcoming doubt often will vastly outweigh even the harshest of situations in which the doubt can be proven to hold even the most minimal amount of truth. In reality, if we finish a work that we have some doubt about and move forward with the process of getting it out there, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone won’t like it? Big deal. There are over seven BILLION people on this (that’s 7,397,799,570 people  at the time of writing this for those of you that want exact numbers). There is bound to be AT LEAST one person out there who likes the work, who is thankful you finished the work and who may even be inspired by the work. The bottom line is, even if your work only truly touches one person, that’s still one person who is better off because you didn’t give up. That’s one person whose life or confidence may be saved because you pushed through your own sense of doubt. And you tell me; isn’t that worth the battle?

Feel free to add your thoughts to this post or send them to me in a message. I love getting to hear all of your thoughts on these blogs! Until next time remember; don’t give up- embrace your doubt. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

 

How Did I Get Here?

One of the things that I have been asked multiple times on my (albeit short) journey as an author is “How did you become interested in writing” or “What inspired you to be a writer”. Now I’ve answered the question a few ways, always trying to keep the answer short and sweet for those who don’t want to hear my whole life story, but I think a good way to help me relate to everyone would be to share a larger bit of the story here. I hope that once you all read it you’ll be inspired to share your stories with me in the comments or through a message so I can know you all better as well.

I barely remember a time when reading and literature weren’t a huge part of my life. I’m actually not sure that was ever the case. I basically was born with a book in my hand. From the time I was old enough to string the letters together in my head and make words out of them I’ve read anything I could get my hands on. I can remember some of the books I had as a child (that I am extremely angry I lost somewhere in the haze that is “growing up”) and the fact that I always had people supporting me in my love of the written word. So much so that I  was reading Stephen King’s “IT” in the third grade, reading on a college level before even nearing puberty. This is very easily something I thank my mother for. She encouraged me in my reading and bought me just about any book I wanted- granted, she wasn’t all that happy that I was a King addict at such a young age, I was a very insistent young man. I can easily say that, without her encouragement, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel God had a hand in my talent and skill, because I do. I do think that, had my mother not played her part and encouraged me to read, that my journey to being an author would have been much more difficult. But from the time I could read well I did it with a passion. This eventually lead me to writing down little short stories and trying to make up characters. I remember at one point that I actually attempted to not only write out a (slightly altered) version of one of my favorite movies but I tried to write a sequel to one of my favorite Stephen King stories. This, of course, was the true beginning of my writing career.

Before too long I was ecstatic to say that I had my first moderately original ideas (although now I would be hard pressed to remember all that much about them) and went into high school with a couple of extra notebooks in my backpack. My first lesson in maintaining my writing in a strong and durable form came when, after a few days of particularly grueling homework that kept me from writing, I pulled out my notebook to find that the pages had rubbed together so much they had literally worn my words into a greasy black mess. My first rookie mistake; I had tried to write a story with a pencil.

I quickly learned how big of a mistake that was and moved on to a pen. I wrote all of my material out by hand because at that time I didn’t really have a computer or a working knowledge of Microsoft Word that would allow me to do anything different. As life went on I kept reading, but eventually the story ideas that had begun fizzled into nothing. This would likely be due to a combination of things, the passing of my grandfather for one, that lead to a bit of a difficult time in my young adult life. I dealt with my issues in my own ways and this lead me down a new path as well, pushing me more in the arms of the books I loved and giving me ideas of travelling all over the world.

As for my writing, I remember the day that things changed for me. I was dealing with a dark day in my life when my brain was suddenly filled with the idea for a novel. I felt the plot run through my mind; the highs, the lows, the whys, the climax and the facts that would bring most of it together. I was somewhat astounded. Without much hesitation I grabbed a notebook from my room and began to write what I knew, outlining parts of the story I had seen and writing the prologue that seemed so vivid it was like I was living it. As I finished the last line in that portion of this new story idea, I realized without a single doubt that this was my purpose. This was what I wanted. I decided on that day that I wanted nothing more out of life than to be a professional author.

This was around the beginning of my junior year of high school, if memory serves. I worked on that novel and developed the story, only letting one or two people know anything about the piece itself, finding the ideas for other stories and novels flickering through my head at the slightest whim, some of them insisting that I drop everything and write them immediately. It was the following Summer that I got the idea for my most loved project (Maverip) and began going down that long road as well- but that is a story for another time.

My life was seriously changed on that day almost ten years ago, and I couldn’t be happier with that. I know now without a doubt that writing is exactly what I was made for. I fully believe that it is God’s purpose for me just as I believe that writing literally saved my life. I have since seen my work published nearly a dozen times in various journals and have even self published some of those works in the form of a short story and poetry collection that is available on Amazon.

The journey to where I am today has been a bit of a long one, and has certainly seen its bumps. I’ve asked myself many times over the years if I was just wasting my time, if my work was good enough, if anybody would ever care what I have to say. This is a bit discouraging at times, but for the most part it is said that every true author goes through that. Everyone, at some point, is going to feel the worry that something is wrong, that they are wasting their time. The difference in success and failure, however, is picking yourself up and going on no matter how hard it seems.

So that’s a part of my journey (I could write for days on my experiences and why I keep going, but I won’t subject you all to that just yet). I hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll share yours as well. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up, no matter how hard things get, folks. Until next time.

Setting Goals

It’s officially two weeks into the new year and I think we’re all getting into the swing of things pretty well. 2015 was a pretty good year that saw a lot of changes and developments for a lot of us. Personally I found myself graduating college again, teaching a workshop and signing books alongside an internationally bestselling author, writing a fair amount of short stories, blogging on multiple sites, getting a job that allows me to use my skill set,  getting to meet a few of you guys. That alone was enough to make the hardships of the year well worth it.

One of my other biggest accomplishments of the year was that I finally managed to complete NaNoWriMo. That’s an experience I haven’t gotten to talk about yet, also. Before I do, though; For those of you that don’t know NaNoWriMo is a challenge for writers where you are pushed to complete a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November. Believe me, it isn’t easy.

This was my third or fourth year attempting NaNo and in the past I’ve always found myself getting so far along (one year it was around 10,000 and another it was closer to 20, etc…) before college and life bogged me down and pushed me in other directions, but this year I not only succeeding in reaching the goal but I exceeded it by over 18,000 words in a period of 20 days. By November 20 I had a 68,900 word novel in my possession and it felt amazing. It still does. I’m currently running the novel through beta readers so I can put it through the second round of editing and am in talks with two separate publishers about pricing and options and what not.

It’s a good feeling, that’s for sure, but the point of this blog is to talk about the new year, right? No matter how good (or bad, if that’s the case) 2015 was, this year can and will be one for the books! My personal plans for the year are to try as hard as I can to get at least one of my novels to a publisher and try to get it to shelves and not just in an electronic format. Another goal is to try (and hopefully succeed) to get my work published in at least 12 periodicals this year. I have more, of course, like getting back into church and refreshing my relationship with God for myself and my family, but those two are relevant to writing.

Now, obviously these things on my list are New Year’s Resolutions (yes, I’ve made it two whole weeks and I’m still trying!) and that’s a bit of a controversial topic. A lot of people think that making resolutions is a waste of time, some even say that it is a direct challenge to true happiness with one’s life. Their argument for this, of course, is that by making resolutions and pushing yourself to change your life in a certain way, it prevents you from being who you truly are. Silly, right? The point of resolutions is to be a better you, a you that you are happier with. So why not try it? Of course, I’ve also failed at resolutions like everyone else, but this year it feels different. This year I’ve made a list of goals that, if I don’t give up on, will make me a stronger, better, happier me.

So what about you all? Have you decided to make this year better? Have you worked on a list of goals that will improve your life? One thing that I intend on doing this year, with this and my other blogs, is to improve the quality and quantity of the posts I am giving you all. I would like to inspire each and every one of you to go out there and take life by the horns this year, so I want to hear more about what you all want from the blog itself and from me as a writer. How can I be better at this and make more of a difference? No answer is a wrong answer, so give me all you’ve got! Have a great weekend and make those goals, stick to them and change 2016 for the better!