Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Swinging the world by the tail

Do you draw inspiration from rejection or encouragement? Who is your biggest champion? In order to improve, do we need cheerleaders? Or doubters?

by Dietrich

When I started calling myself a writer, I accepted that if I was going to put my stories out there, there would be both acceptance and rejection, hopefully more of the former. But, since rejection was inevitable, I considered that how big a slap to the face I would allow it to be. And since I had decided I was in it for the long run, I thought it best to adapt a thriving outlook.

At the first Bouchercon I attended in Albany, I stood at the bar with a couple of writers who were discussing rejection. Since I was new at the game, they both assured me I would face it sooner or later, but that I’d be in good company since there wasn’t a published author, alive or dead, who hadn’t faced rejection and bad reviews at one time or another.

I sure appreciated the advice, and hoped anytime rejection showed its twisted face, there might be the odd nugget of constructive criticism too.

Since that time, I’ve seen thumbs go up and thumbs go down, and I’ve heard a lot more on the subject. And anytime I’ve personally felt the sting, I’ve reminded myself I was in good company.

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” — Stephen King

“Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas

I looked at the flip-side and rejoiced any time a reader got you.” — Susan Sontag

Rudyard Kipling received a rejection slip from a publisher telling him he just didn’t know how to use the English language. Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching. John Le CarrĂ© was advised he had no future in writing. And Jack Kerouac's work was dismissed as pornographic. So, instead of feeling the sting, I’ve tried to consider its source, even adapted a what-do-they-know attitude. But most of all, I’ve seen myself in the good company of writers who I admire.

The question also asks if we need cheerleaders or doubters, and I’ll take cheerleaders any day. There’s nothing like the nod of encouragement, and I truly appreciate all the support of family members, close friends, fellow writers, and most of all, the readers.

As for doubters, I can’t see much benefit there. I know they’re out there, but the worse doubter of the bunch can be the self, and that son of a bitch needs to be kept locked up in the basement. 

So, I’ve learned to keep on the sunny side, getting to do what I love to do, staying open to sources of inspiration, like reading a good book, or listening to some great music, looking at art, or even being out in nature — anything that might invite in the muse and keep me in the game for the long run.


Susan C Shea said...

Yours is the healthiest way to view criticism. Our own self-doubt doesn't need any help!

Brenda Chapman said...

Hear! Hear! We have the same outlook, Dietrich :-)

Terry said...

I have a book called Rotten Rejections. It's a hilarious compendium of rejections that famous authors have received. My favorite, written to William Faulkner regarding Sanctuary (one of my all-time favorite short novels): "Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Susan and Brenda.

That's funny, Terry, "Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."

Marie Loom said...

Both Mick Herron's Slough House series and the Burlington Files series of espionage thrillers by Bill Fairclough were initially rejected by risk averse publishers who probably didn't think espionage existed unless it was fictional and created by Ian Fleming or David Cornwell. It is therefore a genuine pleasure to see an anti-Bond anti-establishment novelist achieving immortality in Masham. Let’s hope Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone fact based spy thriller in The Burlington Files series, follow in the Slow Horses’ hoof prints!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Marie.