November 11, 2007

I received my first proper literary rejection this morning. It was civil and direct, “Thank you sir, not what we’re looking for…do try again”. There was a tiny thrill of squashed hope, but mostly I was pleased to receive my initial lash of tortured artist cred. Even when you know you’re going to take a beating it feels good to throw the first punch; to accept the consequences regardless of the reward.

It took a while to reach that revelation. Historically I spent my time drifting in a piss warm pool of potential, stroking just enough to keep my ego afloat. I understood my general apathy as something rooted in a fear of failure: that if I tried and my talent proved too thin, I would be reduced to something dun. Then I failed at about three quarters of things of things I attempted in early adulthood…and it wasn’t that bad. I mean they weren’t throwing any parades in my honor, but the villagers didn’t gather to stone me either. And gradually I realized that it wasn’t failure I was afraid off, it was honestly. The truth was I felt exposed by success, and tended to abandon promising ventures before they could be taken away. Tough notion to reconcile, but I found admitted cowardice is a surprisingly easy thing to move past.

So now I am a moderately brave failure who has learned success is the absence of surrender, and the larger part of talent is the willingness to put forth your weaker parts and endure. It kind of sucks, but there is a masochist charm to it that fills the void my infatuation with poetic self defeat occupied. Admittedly I’m more tweaking my dysfunction than addressing the flaw, but we are who are…it’s just a matter of framing the context.




(a little over dramatic given the subject matter… but I dig the song.)



9 Responses to “Rejection”

  1. max Says:

    Villagers do not gather torches and throw stones when you fail. They gather torches and throw stones when you succeed. The most publicly reviled people on the planet are those who have risen the highest.

  2. “They gather torches and throw stones when you succeed.”

    Then I am well safe from reprobation.

  3. max Says:

    Only in the realm of publication. And only for a little while.

  4. baredfeetandteeth Says:

    I like that you recognize it as the first, implying that you’re not about to give up as a result. It takes some big balls to send your personal art off to professionals knowing it will be dehumanized and passed around like a malaysian orphan girl. I think managing even that is a mammoth feat. Congratulations.

  5. thekenji Says:

    Congrats AJ on your first step into the literary battlefield :)

    I’m sure you’ll agree with this… As an artist, rejection is pretty satisfying especially when you think of how awful the opposite could be: untested success and acceptance. It would be so hollow compared to the pride you’ll feel after you baby is tackled, stabbed, raked through coals and crushed by a merciless juggernaut before standing back up and charming the pants off the world.

  6. max Says:

    “As an artist, rejection is pretty satisfying”

    I have now decided Kenji is unsane. No offense Kenji. I am sure you are a very nice crazy person.

  7. “I am sure you are a very nice crazy person.”

    He really is.

  8. engtech Says:

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight rules for writing fiction:

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

    4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

    5. Start as close to the end as possible.

    6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    — Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

  9. anthonynorth Says:

    As the proud owner of over 1,000 publisher’s rejections over 20 years, welcome to the club.

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