Rejection

This is a word that strikes fear and dread in the heart and mind of any artist who wants their work to be viewed and enjoyed (and, honestly, the vast majority of us do. I think it’s King who likes to remind us that writers write so the work can be read!). The mere idea of rejection can discourage more people than exist on the market as a whole. Many of us who aren’t all that scared by the idea of rejection become terrified of what might happen after we actually do receive one. Does it mean we are failures? Does it mean we will never become the master of our particular trade? Does it mean that no one will like our work and we should just go off the grid and never let our faces be seen by another living human again? NO.

Rejection can be the thing that holds aspiring artists back from attempting to get their work out on the market and, for those who do make the attempt and feel the terrible weight of the rejection, it can be the thing that kills their ambition to ever try again. But why? We can look at the wide world of art and literature and see that everything big on the market obviously has some level of following, whether we are particularly fans of it or not. For that matter, how many times have you gotten your friends or family to watch, read or listen to something that you love only to have them tell you it’s not up their alley (whether saying it that nicely or not). Why can’t it be that way with our work?

When looking at the world through our own eyes we often see that we want or like things of a certain type and we think that no one else can possibly see it a different way – until they do. So why can’t our work be a part of this same reflection. There are things we love and things we hate, but no matter how we feel about something, there are countless other people in the world who may feel the exact opposite. We may be absolutely in love with our latest piece of work and feel that there is absolutely no way anyone can feel any different about it, and when we realize they do we think that that’s it. Once we’ve received one rejection it is so easy to imagine that no one will ever like that piece (or, depending on your level of self esteem, any of your work at all), and give up on it.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If we can like something that no one else does – or more so if someone else can like something that we don’t – why do we tell ourselves that one rejection on one piece of work is doom for our whole career? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. The first time I submitted a piece I was 17 years old and I submitted it to a very large publication that I was more excited about than I can describe. The work in question was my very first completed short story (which, despite not being my best piece by far, I was very proud of) and I waited somewhere between three and six months for a response. When I finally got it and tore it open my heart collapsed as I read my very first rejection. It was simple, some would even say cold, saying that they could not use my work in their publication. There was no personal touch, not even an actual signature, just a stamp. I was devastated. I felt like I was wasting my time with the story ideas flowing through my head – at first.

Soon the defiance that makes up a good portion of my character came back full swing and I put the feelings of humiliation behind me, as hard as it was, and kept writing. After all, being a King fan, I knew that when he was first starting out he received so many rejections that he had to put them on his wall with a railroad spike because a nail stopped holding them up. So I wrote more, jotting down my ideas in notebooks, putting them in my phone, even literally writing one or two on napkins while at work one day when I forgot to bring a notepad. But I was still wounded. I didn’t attempt another submission for around two years. I finally broke down and submitted to the Clinch Mountain Review, the literary and arts journal of the college I was attending at the time. I did this in a hurry, submitting a piece that I had written in the span of a few hours (a piece that actually weighed my mind down so much that by the time I could start writing it I was tired of it already) on the last day of the deadline.

I wasn’t thrilled that this piece was the only one I felt ready to try with, but I sucked it up and sent it out, knowing if I didn’t get back on the horse at that point, I may never do so again. Barely two months later (if memory serves) I received the notification that this piece, a piece I felt was unworthy of any recognition, had been accepted into the journal. This piece actually got published, and became my first ever publication. I wasn’t fond of the story at all when I submitted it, feeling that it wasn’t my best work by far. I still feel this way, but imagine the feeling I got when I realized if the piece that I thought may be one of my worst was good enough for publication. Elation doesn’t even cover it. I held on to that feeling with each subsequent attempt I made at publication and, until yesterday, I had only received one other rejection in my writing career.

Earlier this month I went on a bit of a submitting spree, sending pieces out to the wind and hoping to expand my audience and get more recognition, etc… Yesterday I received an email telling me that one of the pieces I felt most confident about had been rejected. The editor told me that he felt humbled to have read the work but couldn’t find a place for it in the Spring edition of the journal. It was that little twist of irony that inspired this post actually (and I’ve since been inspired to write two more for the future; one on personal rejections vs. impersonal and one on works you like vs. ones you don’t. If you’re particularly interested – or uninterested- in either of those posts let me know), because I find it moderately hilarious, if a little frustrating, that my first publication was a story I didn’t like and my first rejection of 2016 was a piece I felt pretty confident in.

One way or the other, I think the point of this post has been made to you all. Opinions are unique to each and every one of us, just as our fingerprints and thought processes are. We can be absolutely in love with something that everyone else we know despises, but that’s fine. There are over seven billion people in the world (as I so love to remind you all) and the chances of every single one of them feeling the same about ANYTHING, particularly your work is just preposterous. Of the people on this planet there are going to be some who adore your work, and there are going to be those who despise it. The goal is to find the right group and let them enjoy your piece, even if it isn’t your favorite. Don’t let the idea of rejection cripple you, and don’t ever give up just because you’ve been rejected. Whenever you feel things aren’t going to get better just remember that a dozen publishers rejected Harry Potter- or do what I do and remind yourself of King’s railroad spike and realize that, if you don’t give up one day it WILL happen for you. You’ve just got to have faith and find your audience.

Finding Ideas

It’s been said that the average person passes hundreds, even thousands of story ideas each day- but the lucky ones see five or six of them. In my opinion that’s one of the most accurate quotes about the craft I’ve ever read.

Most writers, after making it big, will say they are often asked where their ideas come from. Speaking from experience, this can be one of the easiest and hardest questions to  answer. For me ideas can come from absolutely anywhere and I usually get bombarded by them at the most unexpected times. The inspiration for this blog actually stems from one such experience that I had earlier today. I was driving through town and glanced up at a street light and then was hit with an idea for a strange but interesting idea that I can’t wait to start working on.

Oddly enough this very occurrence is actually one of the things that tends to put me behind like nobody’s business- but that’s another story.

One of the things that made me feel the most positive about my yearning for the written word came to me during my sophomore (technically senior) year of college. I was taking a literary criticism class and one of the first pieces of material we had to read was an essay in which the author insisted that without art life would be little more than a monotonous cesspool. He didn’t use quite those words, but that’s how the work made me feel. it made me feel like, as a writer, I was contributing to life in a way that broke the monotony and could even give someone an entirely new reason to get up in the morning. The author went on to discuss how, without art, we are trapped in the day to day life with little or no escape from the things that can become habitual background information.

As an example of this he used the experience of driving to work to symbolize a habitual action. We get in our cars, get on the road, typically take the same route every day and go to work without really considering it. Often, if we really think about it, we’ll find that we barely remember the drive itself or anything about it. The action can become so ingrained in our psyche that we don’t even have to think about what we are doing anymore. Now insert the music, talk show, book on tape or news that you listen to on the way to work (and I know not everyone does this, but for those that do you’ll understand).

After introducing this element to our drive, it not only becomes different and more of an actual changing experience, but there will start to be parts that we remember better. Maybe your favorite song comes on the radio a few miles from your house and it puts you in a good mood, causing you to notice more about your surroundings. This wouldn’t have happened without the music. The same goes with gaining the idea for new works.

As the quote says, countless ideas surround us every single day. Sometimes I’m hit with a few a day, sometimes I’m lucky to get a few a week, but no matter how many I get, they come from out of the blue and are typically completely unexpected. If we take the time to examine the world around us, there is no telling what sort of things we can come up with. The ideas that we get can completely change the way we, as artists, look at the thing that inspired them- and this can be passed to those who enjoy the work as well. If someone paints a snowy field that has one lonely, broken tree in it, it can mean ten different things to ten different people. The same goes for music and literature and so much more. Art is truly the thing that brings life a renewed vigor- if we let it.

As an artist of any type we are told that art imitates life, while others argue that life imitates art and everything in between. Regardless of which opinion you think is correct, one thing that can’t be denied by most is that inspiration absolutely comes from life. It can be something as simple as hearing a footstep in a dark alley or contemplating the chemical process that happens each time we breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

One bit of advice I can definitely give anyone who is seeking the best way to find new ideas is this; keep your head up and your eyes and ears open. Never dismiss anything. The idea for the next international bestseller could slam into your brain from even the most unlikely source. It can come from something we have looked at every single day for years on end before seeing it in a new light, or it can be something we see for the first time five minutes before working on a draft of the idea it inspired. In my opinion, one of the most important things to remember about a new idea is that the source of the idea itself is much less important than what you do with it

Beating the Monday Blues

Mondays suck. Lets face it. But that doesn’t have to stop us from doing great things. We, as artists and writers, really need to give ourselves a bit of a schedule to follow. Some authors will find themselves needing a more strict and rigid schedule. Throughout history there are some authors who have stated that they wouldn’t let themselves do anything else until they had typed X amount of pages or written X amount of words per day. This can be quite a daunting idea for some us and for others it can honestly be nearly impossible. If we don’t have a set schedule at work it can be very hard to try and have a set schedule with out writing. This can lead us to breaking any type of schedule we may try to set. That’s not good at all.

Other of us (myself included at times) don’t like trying to demand ourselves to meet a certain deadline. Granted we may sometimes be under contract and actually have a deadline, but that doesn’t mean that we can just force ourselves to vomit out a certain amount of work just because it’s what we say we need to do. Part of this can be fixed with the inspiration I so love to write about. Even while typing this I am listening to music on my old Mp3 player to make sure I stay motivated despite the feeling of inspiration that I’ve had today. I have used the music on this player to help me write and focus on my craft for so long that I’ve had to change players three of four times because I’ve worn some of the others out and just ran out of room on one.

But we do want to continue performing our craft at the level we are now and we do want to improve. We may find it hard, or even impossible to do that if we let the world get in the way of our productivity. Yes, it’s Monday, and yes that means we are going back to work and/or school and are feeling the typical mourning over the loss of the weekend, but Mondays can be positive as well. Mondays can symbolize the beginning of a whole new week of work. This can be the week where we tackle that hard chapter and vow to gain something from it. Or maybe this is the week we complete that particularly hard painting or song. Maybe it’s even just the week we convince ourselves to pick up the tools of our trade and produce SOMETHING. Mondays can be real downers. They can kill our spirit and motivation and bring us so low that we don’t even have the ability to produce anything at all that week. But they can also mean a lot. They can be the day we start the ending to our latest novel, or start that new painting, or the day we start writing our own music instead of just learning what has already been done. Monday may come at the worst possible time, but it can also bring us a never-ending realm of possibilities. Don’t waste them!!!!

An Incredible and Humbling Experience

Hey there friends and fans. I hope you are all doing well and that your craft and passion is going smoothly. My own work has been up and down as usual, leading me to feel a bit of self doubt and woe, made all the much worse by the fact that I have graduated college for the second time and still find myself having trouble getting full-time employment. But I digress.

As many of you may know or have remembered, this weekend brought one of the things I most look forward to in the year; the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium. I first started attending the symposium four years ago and quickly fell in love with it. The opportunities provided by this convention are almost endless. A large portion of the Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild are present every year. These individuals are all successful authors, many of whom have a good portion of publications under their belts. The symposium consists of two days worth of workshops where these authors are asked to present and teach about an element of the craft, a specific genre or something of the sort (publication, editing, etc…always something that will be helpful to other authors). Each year there is one, at least slightly more famous, author who is asked to be the keynote speaker.

My personal experience with this symposium is that it is wonderful. Each year I have left the events feeling more confident in my work, my abilities and my future as a writer. In fact, some of you may remember that it was the symposium itself that led me to creating this very blog. How’s that for awesome? Anyway, this year’s experience was one that stood apart from my three previous ones for a number of reasons. Lately I have been a bit worried that my work isn’t quite up to par, that I haven’t accomplished anything, that I haven’t done anything positive or made anything of myself. I now realize that is because I haven’t done it all yet. My list of accomplishments (please forgive me here, I’m not trying to boast. I’m merely trying to show you all that accomplishments aren’t just huge goals or obstacles to overcome) is fairly large. As a student I was managing editor of a literary journal for two years and head news writer for a newspaper for one, because people had confidence in my writing. I have completed two of the three (or four) novels in my Maverip series. I have graduated college twice. The list goes on and on.

I came to this realization because of the symposium. This year was particularly unique for me for a couple of reasons. One; I was asked to present a workshop. Me. The guy who feels like he’s a failure at least half the time. Members of the committee asked me if I would lend my expertise in the field of the supernatural to do a panel on Zombies and the Un-Dead in relation to Appalachian Literature. I humbly accepted and worked hard on a presentation that I may discuss later this week.

It was a success. People from all walks of life- at least one of whom was not the least bit interested in the topic until hearing me speak on it- attended and raved about the workshop. I had a number of people tell me how great it was and how much I made them think. One even thanked me for the ideas I had given her. On the second day I had people who had been unable to attend my workshop approaching me throughout the entire day telling me they’d heard such wonderful things that they wished they’d prioritized better. This made me feel like I was doing something right. I was beyond humbled to have these successful authors suddenly become my peers, while others became my temporary students. And the feeling that I was absolutely blessed only grew as I got the compliments I’ve mentioned. But one experience remains.

This year’s keynote speaker was the author Jeffery Deaver. For those of you who don’t know, Deaver is the author of the book The Bone Collector (and many more). I was able to get this genius’s autograph, speak to him face to face and even take a selfie with him. But the true humbling and mystifying part was that I got to be in a book signing with him. By that I don’t just mean that I fanboy’d and got his signature (which I did, obviously), but I was actually sitting at my own table, with some of my work in front of me, being asked for MY autograph. I literally signed my work while an international bestselling author was one table over signing his own. I’ve never felt anything like that.

I told you all of this because I was trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to brag or exalt myself, I do promise that. My point here is this; We can’t let ourselves get down about things. No, I’m not a Nobel Prize winner yet. Not am I on the New York Times bestseller list. But I am an author. I am a good author (at least based on what I’m told). I have completed works, and even self-published some pieces on Amazon. Too often do we allow ourselves to believe that we haven’t done anything with our lives in one way or another. We are our own worst critic, and if we aren’t careful that experience can ruin us. If we wake up every day and tell ourselves that we are failures and haven’t or won’t achieve anything then we are setting ourselves ip for failure. We have to look at the things we have done, set minor goals and proceed. We are strong and we can do whatever we intend, whatever we dream. Don’t forget that. Stand strong, believe in yourself and try hard!

Support A Good Cause!!

Hey guys, I just wanted to give you all a reminder about UpLive. The site has been up and running strong since Sunday and has gotten a lot of positive feedback, but there are countless people out there who could use the type of inspirational messages we are trying to send. It’s going to take all of us working together to get it going strong and spread far and wide, so please make the effort. Go to the site, read the posts, share it with everyone you know. Share this post if you don’t want to do that. Just make sure that you help spread the message. There might be someone out there whose life really could be saved by the type of inspiration this site can give. It only takes a second to share, so come on guys, help us all out. In the meantime, whether you draw inspiration from it or not, I hope you will take the time to read the posts and appreciate the feeling behind them and the talent of those who have written them. If you like them, let the writers know. Feel free to comment and share. This is more for the public and those who need it than it is for us, either way. We don’t need gratification. We just want to help those who need it or could use it. Anyway, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day and a great first half of the week! The link to UpLive is below, please share and enjoy.

http://www.uplivedaily.com/

New Channel, Big Sale, Free Story!

Hello friends and fans! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and great start to your Memorial Day.I am working very diligently to find ways to bring you all the sort of advice and inspiration that you enjoy with this blog, and here are some ways that I have thought of. First off, I have finished reading the first book for my book club and I’m very excited to post my commentary video on Tuesday! I sincerely hope you will all join in on the fun and take part in the discussion. In the meantime I have decided to do a few things to help my work become more available to everyone who is interested. First off; my work “The Reaper and Other Tales” is now 50% off! That’s right, my bestselling work, a collection of short stories and poems spanning over three years worth of work is now available for half price! In addition to that, I have decided to put up another piece of my work here, for you all to have and (hopefully) enjoy! The story I’m posting here is one that was inspired by the big snow storms we had here in Southwest Virginia back in February.

Also, don’t forget about the new site, UpLive, that is now up and running. My first contribution to the site will be posted on Thursday, so don’t forget! The writers contributing to this site are some very talented people, and I am honored to work alongside them. Please share the site with everyone who could use a little pick me up or some inspiration. Here is that link;
http://www.uplivedaily.com/

I hope you will all take part in my book club and share it with everyone you know, also. This can really be a huge thing if we all pitch in and join the discussion! That link is here;
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57mZlzf3sIL_rayJsxbFZQ

As for the sale I have begun, I hope you all enjoy the work and share it as well. If you do (or particularly don’t) enjoy the work, please give it a review. That is very important with this type of work. Here is the link to that book;
http://www.amazon.com/Reaper-other-tales-Damean-Mathews-ebook/dp/B00FSJX8DE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432567429&sr=8-1&keywords=The+reaper+and+other+tales

And finally, at long last, here is the story that I have decided to share with you all. Please feel free to comment on the work and give me any and all feedback on the blog and any of my efforts that you would like. Without further ado, here is the story entitled “The Last Survivor”.

The Last Survivor

Ice covers everything. Pain fills my body as the debilitating cold pierces all five layers I’m wearing, but I can’t stop. The cold is bitter, wind blowing in my face, drying my lips beyond repair. The frigid air chills and solidifies the blood that seeps from my cracked mouth. I close my eyes as I stumble on, feeling the sharp ice that has already formed over their bare, moist surfaces.

Opening them again, I see the bridge, my final destination and the stone river below it. There are no cars moving, their inhabitants long dead; murdered or frozen. The winter set in days ago, all forecasts seeing no end to the arctic freeze. I’m the last survivor of my group, possibly the last on earth. And I feel so alone. The railing of the bridge is coated in ice. I can barely climb on. Stripping off two coats, I prepare myself. The river below is frozen solid, the water still and unyielding.

The wind pierces my skin now as I lean forward, letting the frigid air swallow me up. Almost 1,000 feet below, the river rises up to meet me as the arctic air does its work. The ice takes my body as its own, I cannot move, can’t even blink away my nearly painless fate as one final thought crawls through my rapidly slowing brain. At least it will be fast…

The last survivor watches from his glass prison as the woman plunges downward. She lands ten yards from his ship, frozen in its place on the water, her body shattering into a million pieces as he feeds the last log onto the guttering fire. He can’t help but wonder, as his last few minutes of life are devoured by the flame, how long it will take for his own end to find him.

Times are changing!

Hey everyone. I know I have been absent again, but hopefully that will be changing soon. As some of you know, I’m finishing up my final year of Undergraduate education. I graduate from my good school in May, meaning I’ll no longer be a college author! This means I need a name change here for one, but it also means that I should have more time to post again, bringing the blog back to what I meant it to be! Anyway, just a heads up, friends and fans. If you have any suggestions for a new name let me know, and as always if you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see here, feel free to comment below or message me directly!!!

New Works, Benefits

Hey there friends and fans! What’s happening in your world this year? So far things have been going well for me. As you all already know I have started vlogging and writing a few new ideas. Those things are going pretty well, although I’m getting almost no views on my vlogs. It’s a good way to keep my head straight though. It helps me organize ideas and rant and vent. In a way I suppose the benefits are almost the same as those of writing in a diary or journal. I have put the links to the vlog in previous posts, so if you want to check it out, I welcome you to. Also, I have begun working on Wattpad in order to find myself in a new genre and gaining a new audience. I am working on a Fanfiction piece there. It’s a sequel to the film “Near Dark”, which is an absolutely fantastic movie. I feel it really deserves a sequel, so I took it upon myself to work on one that I hope will do the original storyline justice while giving it a modern touch.

In my experience so far, I feel like both of these are very good ways for authors and artists of just about any kind to work on their craft. It’s good to be able to vlog and share some things on Youtube, because there are obviously millions of viewers out there leaping for new things. It’s similar with Wattpad. It’s a good way to work on branching out and trying your hand at new types of work or putting a couple of chapters out there for people to read for free so you can see how well it is liked. This all being said, you have to be very careful with exactly what you share, of course. You don’t want to publish an entire novel on Wattpad and then try to get it published. People won’t want to pay for what they don’t have to. After all “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Also, you don’t want to give to many plot ideas or any huge details of any works you may talk about in a vlog. All of that, of course, is up to you. But both are helpful. I feel that, just in the last few weeks, the use of these two things has helped me to branch out more as an author, which is what you want to do. You want to gain as much of an audience as possible, which can be very hard in a world where literature and literacy are falling deep into the recesses of technological advancement. But that’s a rant I’ve had more than once, and -spoiler alert- will certainly do again in the future. Everyone, have a great night, a great week, and I’ll post my Wattpad link below. Please read, subscribe and rate. Also, remember that anyone who gives me a review online between now and April will win a free copy of my next published work!

http://www.wattpad.com/user/DameanMathews

Networking is Key

Greetings people! It has been a while since I made an honest to goodness blog post that wasn’t just an update on myself. This one, long overdo, is going to be moderately short unless I run into a rant, which many of you know is very possible for me. I want to talk a little bit about networking, though.

Networking is incredibly important for any author, from the newcomer that was just published an hour ago to the man who has had 50 books published over 20 years. Without networking hundreds, if not thousands, of books (and authors) can go unnoticed, fall through the cracks and be left by the wayside. This is the last thing any of us want to happen to ourselves- and the last thing I want for any of you, faithful friends and fans! So what do we do to combat it? Network. Network. Network.

What is networking,some of you may ask. It is, quite simply, spreading your name and work as far and wide as you can, especially to those people whom you know are interested in your particular style or genre.Networking might sound like an easy thing to do, but believe me, that isn’t always the case. There are 7 billion some odd people in the world, and while the chances of anyone else writing your exact same piece are fairly slim, there are countless others who are writing in a genre or style comparable to yours, don’t kid yourself for a second to think otherwise. That’s not to say your work isn’t important, don’t get me wrong. Like I’ve said before; if there is a work inside you that wants out, it is for a reason and you owe it to yourself, the world and the work itself to get it out there to the best of your ability.

Networking can help with that. One way to do this, of course, is to blog about your work to others who may be interested. Another, and very important way, is social media. Social Media can be a huge help, or a huge dud for authors. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of people trying to promote their own work, or the work of someone else (and I’m a part of a number of them for this very reason) but there are going to be people on there who will want to hear what you have to say. This is one thing that can be your saving grace. If you can find the right circle of people to market to on social media, a good portion of your networking is kind of done for you.

LinkedIn and other sites of the like are sometimes helpful, particularly if you can find other authors who are in your boat. Building relationships with other authors and readers is another way that you can be exceedingly successful. If your audience knows you on even the most superficial of personal levels, they’ll be more interested in hearing what you have to say and reading your work. One way to build this relationship and allow others in for interaction is by making a website. It gives you a way to show everything you do and allows others to comment directly to you in any way they’d like. Being a part of chats, symposiums and anything that allows authors and readers to interact can be hugely helpful. Really, anything that allows your potential audience to see the human side of you and make you more than just a name on a piece of paper. This is what is going to help.

I’m preparing to begin taking the symposium route this summer, as I have been asked to present at the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Symposium at Southwest Virginia Community College in June. I made a post about that late last year, but as a recap I’m doing a presentation on a topic that, right now, is roughly titled; “Zombies and the Undead in Appalachian Literature”. All of the information about the symposium can be found here; https://appheritagewritersym.wordpress.com/ The site will be updated with specifics on each presenter and their workshops soon, so check back on it often. Hopefully some of you will attend, because I’d love for you all to have the experience- because I can attest to how enriching it truly is- and because I’d LOVE to meet you all.

In addition to this, I have created a vlog channel in order to attempt to let you all and fans of my other work see a bit into my life and see who I really am. The vlog channel will also include advice and talks of my works, and will see much more regular entries than this site does. That’s not because I favor it or anything, but because it’s much easier to pull out my phone and film a few minutes of me talking than it is for me to rush to a computer (or just an area with good phone signal) and pull up a website or an app and type everything out. The link to that channel is here; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2EU_YW9qBDfFWAB01Nc6wA It’s very new, but I hope you’ll all watch and subscribe.

Anyway, I’ll cut this off for tonight. Anyone with comments, questions or any concerns is always welcome to contact me in any way possible. I look very forward to hearing from everyone! Good luck, Good year, and Happy Writing!!