Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ups and Downs in the Arts

I've been an artist for all of my adult life. For the most part, I am used to feeling naked in front of people who are critically assessing my work. I've completely absorbed the most important maxim an artist / writer can learn: REJECTION ISN'T PERSONAL, or R.I.P. as I like to think of it. I've drawn it in through my pores until I truly believe it. I do.

So what I'm wondering is this: Why is it still so painful? I know the agent / editor / publisher isn't looking at me and sizing me up, only to find me unworthy. So what is it? Is it the hope that we've built around a particular chance for publication? (This, in and of itself, is an annoying trait--each new agent expresses an interest and I think, "Could this be the one? Will this be true love?" Blech, but there you go.)

Could it be that not hoping would be better all around? But what are writers, if not a hopeful bunch? I mean, really, why sit alone in a room, cranking out words for a stranger to (perhaps) read at some future time? Why? Our innate storytelling genes? Well, maybe if we were gathered around a campfire after a hunt I'd buy that, but writing is storytelling once removed. It isn't that immediate gather-round-my-children-and-you-shall-hear experience of the stortyteller. It's more of a please-oh-please-oh-pretty-please-
take-this-book-home-with-you-curl-up-with-it-and-love-it experience.

I don't really know where I'm going with these musings, just throwing out questions. Here's one: How do you deal with rejection?

4 comments:

Myfanwy Collins said...

Hi Mary,

99% of the time rejection doesn't bother me. It's that 1% when it slays me that's the problem.

Within that 1% are those places I had hope would accept me. I fantasized how it would feel. It felt so much like it would happen! And when it didn't, I was left feeling a bit heartbroken.

Within that 1% are also the rejections that come with a tone that is condescending, cutting, unhelpful, patronizing. Those get to me because I feel that the rejector is not treating me fairly. These are very, very rare, however.

Finally, within that 1% are the rejections that come when I am PMSing. :)

As for how I deal with rejection--I brush it off, try harder, send out more work. Keep moving. Keep going forward.

Clifford Garstang said...

Most of the time it doesn't bother me too much. Like critiques in workshop, I know that rejection comes from a subjective place: my story didn't strike a chord in one reader, but that doesn't mean it won't in the next (or in the first reader on a different day). It does bother me be rejected in a way that I can't learn anything, though. The tiny little rejection slips that most journals send you don't mean anything--they don't even prove your story has been read so you certainly can't draw any conclusions from them.

I haven't tried to shake the agent tree lately, so I'm not sure about this, but with agents, especially if they've asked to see material, at least you know they've read your work. Someone actually read it. Maybe they didn't love it, but they read it. That's what I want--proof of my existence is that someone read my work. Reject me, that's fine, just read my damn novel/story/collection.

And then I'll move on to the next one.

Mary Akers said...

Yes, that's actually what I meant--those 1% that still manage to somehow be painful. The ones where I allowed a little bit of hope to creep in. Was I crazy to allow the hope? Or is that all that keeps me going? I wonder.

katrina said...

You and Myf really nailed it for me.