Why Do You Write?

The question as to why I write comes up from time to time in conversation. People want to know why? Why writing?

For me, it’s not an easy question to answer. It’s kind of like asking why someone prefers the colour blue over green or why they play a musical instrument or sing. No one seems to know. It’s just something that is, something that stems from inside us, makes us who we are.

Words fascinated me early on, even before I knew they fascinated me. I’ve always had this feeling that I had something to say. Mind you, I didn’t know anyone would ever read what I had to say.

Last weekend I had the chance to hear Wayne Dyer speak. I was in awe to learn how many millions of copies of his books are circulating around the world. It sure put the few thousand copies that my book sold to shame. But I wasn’t really comparing my writing to Wayne’s, nor was there even a slight twinge of jealousy. I went away wondering what it would be like to have my words touch the lives of so many people around the world. Yet, this man was as humble as you and I.

As a beginning writer, I used to wonder when or if I’d ever be good enough to have my work published. Back then publications felt like a pipe dream. Was I wasting my time and effort. Why was I even writing, subjecting myself to rejection after rejection?

For me, it wasn’t simply enough to write, I wanted my words to be read by others. That meant I had to grit my teeth, swallow my appointment,  keep my head up, my brain focused, and write on, many, many occasions.  Even when I felt like quitting.

Thank goodness the world is filled with many more doers than quitters. Imagine what would have happened if many of our great writers (who also faced their share of rejections BTW) would have given up because they weren’t up to the challenge.

This business of writing and published is filled with hurt feelings. If someone tells you they’ve never, ever felt hurt when their work was turned down, take what they say with a grain of salt. They’re obviously out of touch with their feelings. No one likes rejection. It stings. Mind you, over the years, I developed a somewhat thick skin. I was able to look past the rejections  on many occasions and keep sending my work out again and again. But every now and then a certain rejection would get to me and I’d be pulled down into the pit of despair. Yep, I got down, but more importantly, I didn’t allow myself to stay down. I became my own cheerleader. I had to if I wanted to become published. The truth is, all the good words from others won’t keep us going if we don’t believe it ourselves.

Have a great weekend, and for my Canadian readers Happy Canada Day!

 

I’ll leave you with a photo that I tried posting on Facebook, but my dial-up connection just wasn’t co-operating. It was one of several I took at the Cunard Centre the day Wayne Dyer was there.

Not so easy to get a clear photo of Wayne Dyer when he was in Halifax. Too many heads in the way and he moved around a lot on stage. He spoke for nearly three hours (not bad for a man who turned 73) and the audience hung on every word. This photo is sort of the best of the worst.

DSC03802

Celebrate Good Times

Hey, look at me I’m celebrating—nothing outstanding, mind you, just the fact that this is post number 400.  Impressive, don’t you think? Why not have some dessert with me as part of the celebration?

So if I figure an average post of about 500 words (give or take) that means I’ve written 200,000 words for you, WordPress.. You ought to be a little proud. That’s a couple of novels I’ve sacrificed, maybe even three or four depending upon the length. So what do you think, WordPress, am I ready to be freshly pressed anytime soon? Be honest, I’m used to being rejected by editors, I can take it.

Hehehe..But on a serious note, when I first began blogging I wasn’t sure what I’d even write about or if I’d even write on a regular basis. Now, look at me 400 posts in. That’s kind of cool and a reason to celebrate I should think. But the biggest reason I have for celebrating is all of you for stopping by and reading what’s going on in my mind. I do appreciate everyone’s visits and the comments you leave that sometimes make me giggle, sometimes make me think, and are always entertaining.

Here’s to another year of blogging!

Make Rejection Your Friend.

Make rejection, your friend?

Who said that?

Me?

I must have been joking, right?

Let me get this straight: Rejection, your friend?

Okay I said that already, but it’s true or can be.

That’s right; rejection can be your friend.

Okay, so not all rejection is friendly. If you’ve submitted any amount over the years you’ve pretty much discovered this. It doesn’t show up at the door with a bouquet of roses or even a friendly apologetic smile. It doesn’t offer you a tissue to wipe your eyes or a friendly shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t pat you on the back and tell you to keep going. Some rejection is miserable and cold, even frightening to some degree. It hides in the shadows and jumps out at you and shouts, Boo—along with come other choice words I might add.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Sometimes we’re in denial. We simply can’t believe our eyes. What, my story? You don’t want to publish MY story? How can that be?

How was my beautiful story, my baby, that brilliant idea I followed from conception to birth, rejected? Perhaps there’s another note inside that envelope because surely the “your work” described in the rejection letter was not the same short story you titled, “The Red Geranium” before you sent it off “Your work,” in fact, could be anyone’s story. Right? Mistakes happen, right? And surely “your work” could be referring to anyone’s work, unless you actually titled the piece, “Your Work,” which I’m betting you didn’t. Must be some mistake, you say again. This time doubt is settling. You take another look inside the envelope, closer this time. You give it a shake. Maybe you missed something, another note, perhaps.

Empty air.

The very first rejection letter I received was a form letter addressed as such: Dear___________.

Over the years that blank space has been filled in with “Ms Best” “Laura” “Laurie” “author” and in some case, just left blank.

Let me say though, I do understand the need for form letters. With all the submissions out there it would be impossible to respond personally to each and every one. I get that. You should too. Don’t necessarily take it personally.

But then some editor takes a moment to scribble a note of encouragement at the bottom. “Yippee!” you hear yourself shouting. “I don’t totally suck at this,” and maybe, just maybe, you don’t.

And then, if that isn’t enough, one day you receive a letter with your first name on it. Yes, a letter or email, not just a scribbled sentence. At first glance you can see that some thought was put into it. You’re nervous, but brave enough to continue. No one has to tell you. Your heart makes a little skip. You’ve just received a good rejection letter.

Break open the Champagne!

Any writer will tell you that a good solid rejection letter from an editor is worth its weight in gold. And why shouldn’t it be. They have that objective eye. They are someone who is not emotionally invested in the story, someone who knows what they’re doing, and what you should be doing. They don’t know you personally and have no reason to send false praise. They are busy and don’t have time for such nonsense.

So what’s a good rejection?

If you’ve ever received one you know what I mean. A good solid rejection letter doesn’t send the author off to the corner licking her/his wounds, feeling as though their writing isn’t worth the ink to print it out. A good solid rejection points out the strengths and weaknesses in your manuscript, sandwiching in layers, making it look good enough to eat. Yes, there will be layers.

Most of all, a good rejection, sends you off eager to start revisions because you know you’ve got something good going. It just needs a little more fleshing out. A good rejection will make suggestions of how the story can be improved. A good rejection lets you know you are a person who counts, that your writing matters, and that there’s someone out there who gives a damn. Of yes, a good rejection will/can do all that. It can even make you smile with gratitude. I can be your friend.

We never know who we will meet on our journey. There will be those who will discourage us, even knock us to the ground if we let them, but there will also be those who will lift us up, help us out, and make our travelling time most enjoyable.

Have you ever received a good rejection, one that had you saying, “Thank you” rather than sending you into the pit of despair?

The Road to Publication

It’s been over fifteen years since my first short story was published in The Amethyst Review, a small literary magazine that has since ceased publication. Although I was thrilled to be finally seeing my work in print I didn’t share my accomplishment with very many people—mainly my family and a few close friends but that was about it. Yes, I was published but I sure didn’t feel like a writer. What if this was my one and only story? We are all supposed to have one story in us—right? Not only that, I still had a great deal to learn about writing and I knew it.

All I had in the beginning was an eagerness to communicate, to put words down on paper, hopefully words that would flow smoothly and eloquently and leave me with a sense of accomplishment. In the early years I was floundering about like so many would-be writers do, trying to find out who I really was on the page and searching for that voice that was uniquely mine. It was a slow process and it was a year or two later until I had another story accepted. But I hung in there either out of pure determination or sheer stubbornness. I was going to figure this out one way or another and, slowly but surely, more and more literary magazines began publishing my work. Some places were able to pay while others were not but I knew that with each publication I was growing as a writer. Did I receive many rejection slips along the way? You bet! And I came to see those rejections slips as most valuable because the closer I got to having my work accepted I went from receiving form rejection slips to ones with wonderful bits of advice and encouragement.

So when I received a phone call from the editor of Nimbus Publishing in April 2008 telling me how much she liked “Bitter, Sweet” I politely thanked her for all the wonderful things she was saying. Play it cool, I silently told myself, what if she’s calling to say, “I really like your story but unfortunately…….” So, I played it cool up until the point where she told me they wanted to publish it, after that I’m not quite sure. I laughed a lot, my legs felt like rubber and my mind was going off in a hundred different directions. She asked me a few questions about the setting and I’m sure I blurted out some sort of answer. Hopefully I made sense. I’m pretty sure I made sense. Oh well, if I didn’t make sense it hardly matters now.

The next few days I literally had my head in the clouds and believe me it took a while to come back down to earth. I can’t compare the difference between having a first short story accepted for publication to having a first novel because there really is no comparison. The short story came at the beginning of my career and served as encouragement but as valuable as that encouragement was it still wasn’t where I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong it was pretty exciting to think that someone wanted to publish something I had written but the novel was my goal from the very beginning. It was where I someday wanted to be. Now that someday is here and it feels great!!!!!!

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 238 other followers

  • Follow Laura Best on WordPress.com
  • Laura Best

  • Blog Stats

    • 81,214 hits