Friday, July 23, 2010

Pessimism as a Coping Mechanism

I've been getting advice from PJ lately about social media, and one of her comments was that she knew I was going to be published soon, so she was pushing me to go out and make connections.

I realized just today why I hadn't. I've been 'on the cusp' of being published for around five years. Worse, I seem to have started there. I've never received a form rejection from a publisher, and over half of the non-form rejections had suggestions, edits, and encouragement tacked on. I've been told that those are Really Good Signs. Almost There signs. Things that tell you you've almost made it.

With that in mind, around five years ago I went out and did just what PJ is talking about. Lurked on writing and publishing sites, commented cogently when I could, built up an online presence, such as it was. Then... Nothing. For five years, over and over, the same kind of responses. Tried for an agent, got similar responses. 'Great work, but not what we're looking for.' 'Really, really cool and well written, but didn't quite grab us enough.'

After a while, I wrote off the 'cusp of being published' as wishful thinking. Note; I didn't stop writing or submitting. On the contrary, I actively looked for venues and honed my craft. I improved; I can see problems with my earlier stories, I can improve them now. But all my writing time was taken away from work time, kid time, wife time and sleeping time. I wound up dropping the net-presence in favor of writing more, writing better, writing faster.

The whole time, five years, there was NO progress. I kept getting the same type of rejections. Part of the problem, I'm convinced, was the lack of rote rejections prior; if you're aiming at 10, and your first effort is '1', the next is '2', and the next is '3', you become convinced that you can hit '10' if you put in enough work. I started at '9' and saw a vague wobble between '9' and '8' (with one notable dip to '7') for five years. Very discouraging. By this past summer, I had hit a state where the only way I could cope was to tell myself that 'of course I'll get a rejection, but at least the feedback will be helpful'.

Then? Decadent. BOOM, published. It... Stunned me. A lot.

So, yeah. I'm still a little stunned. But I'm heeding PJ's advice as quick as I can.

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