it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

meeting triumph and disaster

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same . . . ”

–an excerpt from “If” by Rudyard Kipling

the writing life is defined by ups and downs

the writing life is defined by ups and downs

I got a piece accepted. I got a partial rejected. The judge gave me a 52 out of 100 on my short story; if I were in school, that would be an “F.” I won fifth place in a national novel competition with scores of 90 and 92 out of 100.

Sound familiar?

The writing life is often a string of contradictions: positives/negatives, acceptances/rejections, “I like your work”/”I hate your work.” At present the only entity with more ups and downs than a writer’s career is the stock market.

What was that lyric Mary Chapin Carpenter used to sing: “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.”

Writing is subjective (though it is curious to me how many people think something is good only when others like it, too–case in point THE DA VINCE CODE, a well-plotted vacuuous book that made a ton of money). It’s like rhythmic gymnastics–your work is subject to expert assessment. Yes, there are mechanical standards that must be met. Assuming you’ve met a modicum of competency, your work will advance or fail to based on someone’s subjective opinion.

When writers are rejected, because writing is such an extension of oneself, often we take it hard–too hard. I know I have. But I keep trying, keep getting back on that horse. Because there’s no way I can get a book published if I don’t get back on that horse–no matter how many saddle sores I’ve accumulated.

It really distresses me when writer friends/acquaintances have taken rejections too hard, threatening to give up writing or tear up a manuscript or tell a gatekeeper something that might compromise any future acceptances. I can see it so clearly that they are over-reacting to one person’s subjective opinion (much less clearly when it’s me.) If writing means that much, how can anyone consider giving it up so easily?

Also, writers really want to stay far away from their work when mired in self-destructive cycles. Let the bad feelings sink in. Feel the pain so you can let it go, but don’t go after your manuscript. Give it a day, a week, a month. I promise you, you’ll feel differently.

Sometimes I get down on myself. Most of us do at some point.

But give yourself permission to get back up. And fix your eyes on the prize, and keep your head out of the clouds. Believe in yourself but don’t get carried away with yourself.

On fewer occasions, I suppose because many of my writing friends aren’t published, they are tempted to let themselves become complacent with that occasional endorsement.

Writers striving to be published have to learn to weather the bad and the good. Some of you might be thinking, did you just say, “Weather the good”? What’s to weather when things are good, you may be thinking. However, if old Rudyard Kipling has any cred, he contends that triumph and disaster are both imposters.

So, what happens to the person who “meets with triumph and disaster just the same”?

A product of his day, Rudyard Kipling says, “You’ll be a man, my son.” With apologies to Mr. Kipling, we can  consider that his use of the word “man” applies to “women,” too.

I’ll go a step further in suggesting that his couplet applies to the writers among us if we “have ears to hear.”

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2 Comments»

  rachel wrote @

Well said, and though I may know this pretty well by now, it seems I can never hear enough variations on the theme. I like the Kipling quote – a new perspective on things for me to consider – and also your remarks about giving the pain time to do its work before picking up that traitorous transcript again.

  Modo wrote @

On a day when I received two rejections on full submissions for two different manuscripts, this really helped. To get to the FULL submission level and blow with two different manuscripts sucks, BUT… as you said, if you don’t get back on the horse, you’ll never get published. So how did I respond? Sent out more queries. Thanks for passing on your positive attitude, Gale!


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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.
    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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