I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection. It’s something all artists experience. I’m glad, in a way, to have experienced it. I don’t mean to say that it has been easy to feel unloved or unwanted, certainly disembodied from my own confidence as a writer, but to have experienced rejection means to understand humanness, what it means to feel, and this is something we all can own. We feel. Emotion is our middle name. We suffer. And the more we recognize that we suffer the more I think it is important to think of ways to shift suffering into a positive experience. I’m not saying this is easy, or to be taken lightly, but thinking that we’re suffering causes even more suffering, because when we think, we create. If we recognize that making art, as with anything in life, creates suffering, then perhaps we should think about how we can find something positive from a seemingly negative situation. My work has been rejected so many times I’ve lost count. All artists will tell you the same. But then why do we continue? We continue because there’s something we want to say. I don’t take rejection personally. I might on occasion get mad, yes, but I think of rejection now as a way to toss out old thinking and come up with a new way of thinking and a new way of trying to write. I use rejection as a spring board to expand myself. Sure, one person might like what another doesn’t, and I could continue for years to keep submitting things that aren’t accepted, but I’m shifting out of stubbornness and into freedom to write anew!
I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. I know we all know not all of our writing projects will get off the ground and will languish for years on a computer file or in a box in the attic. I have boxes of completed books and poetry manuscripts that have never been accepted anywhere. Trying to understand this has been challenging. There are so many venues for publication, and I know friends who know friends who know publishers, but sometimes all it takes is for one project to languish and you just want to throw in the towel and never try again.
I was hit with this realization (kind of a Buddha Moment) that not all projects get off the ground. And they are never meant to. Why? They haven’t matured yet. Just writing this helps me understand the creativity I need to think about this in a more positive light. Nothing doesn’t happen without practice, and all of these manuscripts will require hours and hours of additional practice. Just as a musician must practice to perfect a passage of music, writing requires the same discipline.
Writing, as we all know, is a solitary act, and to the best of my abilities to discern, I do believe that writers have distinct personalities that A) enable them to spend periods of time alone and B) agonize about their self worth. That’s a generalization, so forgive me, but generalizations, used to categorize, are what we all do to help create.
Creating, as in writing, is about generalizing. I use marginal words to try and say something that’s not been said before, or to say it in a manner unusual and distinct. I generalize thinking. We all do. Long before we were all competing to be heard, a select few wrote what we were all supposed to think, but now that we’re all writing, posting, blogging, texting, tweeting, and what not, we’re all tossing out generalized thoughts. Where do these thoughts come from?
We all seem to find thought patterns we’re drawn to, and we collect thinking and put thoughts in our pockets, pull out tidbits to share where appropriate, and keep most of our thoughts to ourselves if we’re in an likely situation where we might be marginalized or misrepresented. Meditation helps me discern. I use it frequently to become a more complete person; therefore, a more complete writer. I find it helps me not to think, but to feel; therefore, I feel it helps me leave behind generalizations and search for deeper meaning.
Writing is like traveling, and although that’s a bit obvious and simplified, sometimes I believe the journey afforded me as a writer has been nothing short of arduous and rough going. Like mountain climbing. When is it going to get easier, I often ask myself? I want to lie down on the job, perhaps, but fifteen years into this and I’m still pushing myself over rough terrain to get something worthwhile down onto a page, and better yet have someone else like it enough to publish it. The difficult part of it all is feeling like I have to prove myself, and all the time I’ve spent doing what I love, to others when what I should be doing is spending a lot less time worried what other people are going to think of me and get buckling. Focus! Notice that I’m more worried about what others will think. I’m quite certain I haven’t been frittering too much, but I want to be perceived as industrious and capable. Writers understand this. We fight the desire to prove ourselves. We want progress. You know what I figured out? It’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. I write because I want to go places in my heart and in my mind, and so I do. I love that about traveling. I get to see more of what I’m capable of.
So...do you think it's possible to write a blog about writing when one hasn't become a "real" writer? I mean..not that many people really know of me. I'm a lone ship sailing in a sea of writers too numerous to count. Why do they get to where they want to go and all I do is tack back and forth across the bay? This photograph captures how I feel about myself as a writer. I have spent years going back and forth in a small section of the sea trying different maneuvering techniques, fine tuning, and trying my hardest to believe in my path. I don't sail too far out before coming in again and cleaning things up and putting the boat to bed for the night. Cliches? Metaphors? What I'm trying to say is I practice writing with small ambitions instead of having grand illusions about the whole thing. Why? Because the smaller the sea, the smaller the expectations, the more finely nuanced the work. Spread yourself too far and wide to try and capture an audience and you forget the real reason for writing...to give of yourself. And to know yourself is to know the truth or the solidarity and the nuance of self. I believe we can all write. All of us. But can we write what lies hidden? To do that takes self refection, sure, but it also takes numerous trips back and forth across the page until we get the courage to reveal.
It's a cliche to address patience. Isn't it obvious that writers need patience, struggle with patience, ask for patience of themselves and when giving advice to other writers? Patience is not easy. We all know this. But what if patience wasn't what we need? Could it be that we need hope? Trust? A willingness to believe in yourself, and that you may just have something to say, only goes so far. All writers want recognition. But the journey always starts out as a solo venture. Always. And then when it is no longer a solo venture you will share. When will that be, you ask? When one person shares. And another. But writers must share of themselves first.
With a little luck and a lot of faith one can write. See themselves as a writer. When I say luck I mean just that. It takes perseverance and fortitude and a willingness to spend more time alone then you think you're capable of to become a writer. It takes luck. It takes all the stars to align to put you in the frame of mind to believe in yourself enough to throw yourself out into the world and give of yourself. You can't hide when you present yourself. And if the stars didn't align it wouldn't be possible. But how can you put yourself in alignment with the stars? How can you trust that what you write has any merit? Will anyone care? How many "likes" will I get, you ask yourself. There will never be enough "likes" to satisfy a writer who needs self congratulations. I am learning this the hard way. There are never enough "likes." And yet I soldier on. Why? Because if I don't believe in myself who will? I am the star to align with myself.
Writers write to help others, but before we can help others we need to help ourselves. Writers instinctively know this, but we're afraid of the silence. We want to perform and be heard. Intrinsically, we fight this. We love to grow and shape shift and listen to our own muse in the space we call writing, but there are times when the muse is silent. And the silence, deafening, disheartening. Listening to the song, the cackle of a hen, the lilt of a cardinal, I'm reminded that although I may at times be in silence, I am still growing, shape-shifting. The world is a cacophony of music and every once in a while I'm reminded to listen.