The Best Thing that Ever Happened to my Writing

A number of things have helped my writing along, but best thing that ever happened was to stop caring so much.  This came about gradually. In fact it took a couple of decades.

Rejection hastened things along. “No. Sorry. I’m afraid I’m not the right for this.”  “You have me stumped; I can’t do a thing with this.” “Just didn’t connect.” “Too ambitious for us.” And the mean spirited: This has no artistic merit whatsoever.”

I was crushed by the first rejections, but I kept going and subsequent ones got easier. I understood that taste is personal and that reasonable minds can differ. Sometimes the rejections would reach me after the piece had already been published elsewhere. Twice, pieces that were rejected ended up with Pushcart Prize nominations.

Eventually, I gave up listening and trying to please. I gave up explaining and apologizing, and best of all, I gave up the rules.  Oh, I wasn’t stupid about it.  I continued to seek opinion and always considered what was being said, but I no longer worked to please another.

Instead, I shifted my focus to one thing only: the work and what I thought it required.

And that’s when it started to be fun. I wrote things the way they impressed me.  I took example and insight from other art forms—especially painting.  I left out all the boring parts and just wrote the interesting things. I paid zero attention to form. Right now, for example, I have a bunch of notes from a coffee shop in Amsterdam that I’m thinking of running as raw notes.   Would raw notes work for a blog on the writing process?  Maybe. I might try, and see where it takes me.

To stop caring so much means you let your internal compass guide what you hope to achieve and how you will get there. This allows you to work with a new vigor. You can throw away piles of pages, and start again, or not—no worries. You can take the one scene or character that you liked, and change the whole project, the entire point. In the painting world, you can throw the paint at the canvas or even tape the dripping brush to the wall and call it art, if you have your reasons.

And when your heart starts racing at the possibilities, then it’s going to be a good working day.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo by Thorsten Becker.

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  1. Beautiful – I love the reminder (over and over, please!) that rejections are not really valid, they are subjective. Maybe they hold some valid points, even critiques…maybe everyone else is wrong, but maybe I didn’t say it in a way that it was understandable, maybe maybe…but whatever i or I think, that’s the best choice for me. And maybe your notes will be a beautiful way for us to peer over your shoulder and point to one and say, “Yeah. That’s it, right there.” And maybe I’ll learn how to be less wordy on-the-fly.

    • Wordy-on-the-fly is nicely put and what we do best! / Thanks for writing. I could have listed pages and pages of rejection notes but they all come down to one thing: No. The heck with them. I’m still writing and so are you. All good. Happy weekend.

  2. There you go again, channeling my thoughts, or perhaps I channel yours. Yes, by all means, notes. I’d love to read them.
    These days rejections are nothing more than a form letter or email that says the following:
    Dear Author, your work does not meet our needs at this time. The Publisher or The Agent. That’s it. I gave up subbing a while ago.

    • To listen to all the doom and gloom, and take this assessment of our work into our hearts is a real distraction. If you write long enough, this becomes clear. Thanks for checking in. Happy weekend.

  3. Great thoughts and necessary to remember on a daily basis. The few times I’ve submitted, if I got an answer at all, they wanted to change the whole story. I like what I write and this gives me permission to continue. Thanks.

    • Permission is key. You go for it! Thanks for checking in. Come around often. Would love to hear how it’s going.

  4. Carri

     /  April 15, 2012

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    This has been a gem to find. As someone editing the first novel they’d like to publish, I have been stuck in a rut. At this uncertain stage I am constantly at war with myself, trying to decide when to leave things as they are because I like it and when to change things because others might not. It really is so much easier to write something the way you love it, the rest be damned!

    There will be someone in the world that also loves what you wrote. The ones that don’t, don’t have to.

    You have given me the freedom I’ve longed for.

    • Glad this helped, Carri. It’s about trust. You’ve done the work–my goodness! so much work!–so have confidence in your judgment. And then sleep on it, and look again. And again. And if you like what you see, go with it. // Keep in touch. Would love to hear how it’s going. Thanks for writing. D

  5. It’s a terrific thing when we learn to write for the stories sake and publication. Congrats 🙂 Best of luck in your writing.


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