Friday, September 16, 2011

Keep on Truckin'

So, it's pretty obvious that grad school resuming has greatly impacted my ability to blog on any sort of regular basis.  But there's another reason I've been keeping a low profile lately.

August was pretty much filled with nothing but rejection, and it started getting to me.  I started getting down on writing and on myself in particular.  Why can't I do this? I asked myself.  Why isn't anything I write good enough anymore?

But that was so the wrong question to ask.  Rejection happens to everyone.  It has nothing to do with how good a writer you are--it just has to do with that moment.  Is that story right for that editor and that journal and that issue in that moment?  If not, it absolutely does not mean you're not a good writer.  It just means the time isn't right.

I started trying to think of it like this.  When you buy a lotto ticket and don't win, do you get down on yourself for not winning?  Of course not.  It's out of your control.  There's a certain element of micro-physics going on here--when it's your time to win, you'll win.  If it's not your time, there's nothing you and your lucky numbers can do to make it happen.  Not winning the lotto doesn't mean you're not an awesome person.  It just means your numbers weren't picked today.  That's it.

I'm still slowly making my way through "The Best American Short Stories 2009."  I got to one story, "Sagittarius," by Greg Hrbek.  (I didn't like the story, incidentally, but its journey to publication has an interesting lesson to teach.)  Hrbek teaches fiction writing at a college in New York, and went to the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In other words, he's a highly qualified individual when it comes to writing.  In the notes at the back of the book, Hrbek says that the first version of this short story was rejected by "about fifteen magazines and journals."  Fifteen!  (My best story has been rejected by five or six, so far.)  The rejections prompted him to revise the story, after which it was accepted by Black Warrior Review and then anthologized in the "Best American" collection.  Not bad, huh?

This cheered me up.  If a professor can get rejected fifteen times, I can't possibly be upset about being rejected, either.  It just happens.  To everyone.