Monday, September 27, 2010

Too scared to be afraid

Catching up with a friend, I told her I had learned a wealth of things since we last spoke. And I guess I sounded really serious; she asked me what sorts of things I could've learned in only a few weeks. Before I go any further, the list is actually shorter than you might think. The items' weights were only real to me. It occurred to me that I don't mention the fairly constant stream of rejections I get from various places I submit to, not because I'm ashamed but because it's more or less the only sort of non-bill mail that I get. Every other month I tell myself I'm going to start mailing myself correspondence, mostly blank sheets of paper with smiley faces in the corners. I spoke with a writer friend, the same one who was nice enough to bug me about going to dragon con, and he and I have decided to lean on each other some in regards to redoubling our efforts on the writer's path.

But it didn't stop me from thinking about why I keep getting rejected. The kicker of course is the inconsistency of  feedback. And something could be said for those close to me just telling me what I want to hear, but I don't think that's it. Something could also be said for my work falling between the cracks at numerous places for various reasons. But the epiphany I had on the subject I found in someone else's writing. Translated from the Spanish (that's how they put it, I'm not being erudite), the story's title was No Problem. It was a quirky little piece about a man living an enjoyable, but pedestrian life who comes across a mysterious hat box that changes just about nothing. The contents affect people in startling yet mundane ways, and ultimately the reader never even finds out what was even in the box. The author played with a few different well-finessed techniques, and I came away liking it. But I also came away realizing that it would go into the trash bin at the kinds of places I submit to. I was reading it for work, a co-worker of mine was putting together a lesson plan for an advanced literature group and we were reading various pieces and discussing their merits and what possible questions the works would bring about. On the other hand, the small pamphlet of a sci-fi publication (one of those places that keeps rejecting me) sits unread in the back seat of my car.

And no, before you ask, it actually wasn't that obvious. Not until right then. I was brought up in a literary fiction tradition, not a genre fiction one. I like fantasy and sci-fi and historical and detective novels, but that's never been a huge part of my consumed reading. But I guess I need to change that. Another friend, who apparently knew all this but never said it, who even took the trouble of lending me Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light to make the point without saying it, finally told me that I was a "different kind of writer," somewhat for these reasons. And my first reaction to that notion was disregard. Disdain, even. My goal to submitting to contests recently has been to place, to get an honorable mention, because winning seems like too lofty a goal. I'd like to get there eventually, but it might be easier to say that for now I'm just trying to fit in, that I've been trying to fit in the entire time, and that could be part of my consternation.

But no matter what occurs, it seems like I can still take a step forward. I still want to write, so I will. I'm still interested enough in things to be curious about them, so I recklessly ponder. One thing I've wanted to do for a while now is collaborate with some other people on something a little less serious, and I started that today. Preceding it were some breakthroughs in the upcoming novel as well as short story.

I guess the obvious question isn't what have I learned, but what will I change as a result. And I suspect you might already know the answer to that. I do, or rather, it seems like I always have.

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