A Piece of My Mind:
A Writer's Lament
Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter.
I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us
better, then what on earth is it for?
Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are
the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and
slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.
~ Jessamyn West:
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.
~ Ray Bradbury
When I did a workshop recently, a few writers seemed out of sorts because
they were turned down, turned down by rejection letters, non supportive
family and friends and the cold idea that they may not make it as a writer.
See if you've heard this expression before: "Why don't you get a real job?
You never will succeed as a writer!" My late father used to say that to me
all the time. I hate to say this, but it inspired me to write more than take
Many families have a naysayer suggesting you should leave your dream of
writing as a career. Or like my mom, seeming to want to post every article I
write on the refrigerator like I was two with a childish finger painting.
Note, writing is a career you must love to do it. Each and everyone in
the world can write. However, it takes true talent to string ideas together
and make it a complete thought. I told someone once that writing is my job
and my mistress.
My friend Michele sent an article she wrote to an editor friend of hers.
To quote him according to her " He thinks I'm crazy, and a semi-decent
Many writers are declined in their ideas, efforts are lost because many
writer's spirits are drowned in self doubt. She continued "You seem to be
the only one that thinks I'm such a fantastic writer, Bennet. Are you sure
you're not biased?"
Am I biased toward her? Nope, not at her nor anyone . . . When someone does
good work, I think they should know that it was good work. Writers are like
actors, we do our gig (by being published) and unless you are Stephen King,
we need to prove ourselves over and over time and again . . . it's the "what
have you done for me lately" syndrome. You must remember that this a job of
heartache, loneliness and despair. For every good writer who is published, ten are turned away.
In this last year, writing as a career has been put under a fine
microscope. Within this year a published writer has taken to lying about
their autobiographical memories. Others have taken other author's work,
reprinted in their work with minor changes and called it their own. One
best-selling writer was sued because a few thoughts of his research that
others also used was copied into his best-selling novel . . . Note he
has been sued not once, but four times by other authors. Because of this, it is becoming harder to get the breaks we used to have.
Let me say this, writing is hard work. Those that think it's easy have
never really written on a deadline or tried to live within a word count.
Those who try to eek out a living putting pen to paper and succeeding, I
Too many writers have their work placed in a back closet, a file drawer or
(dare I say) on their computer hard drive. All of them are afraid of one
I have a friend who lives in Woodbridge, VA. He is a farmer by trade.
Ten years ago, he decided to start to write short stories in a large
spare barn he converted into an office. When he got a stack of rejection
notices, he glued them to the wall with epoxy. When an article was accepted
for publication. He copied the article (and sometimes the check), framed it
in a black picture frame and posted it above the rejections on the wall. His
wall of shame covers his barn office, floor to ceiling. He says he is ready
for another stack of rejections.
On this barn office wall you can see rejection letters from magazines as
diverse as Ladies Home Journal, Playboy, Reader's Digest,
Age, Sonic Boom, Travel Monthly, and Oprah magazine. He told me once, "The
rejection wall keeps me on track. I remember all the small wins and keep
plugging at the craft of writing"
So when you are in a funk about the next rejection note, just keep
writing. As Ray Bradbury once said "Fall in love and stay in love. Write
only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have
to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live
for. And You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. "
Seasons Greetings and may you be published in 2007!
Reach for the Stars
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