Tag: Writing (page 1 of 47)

From The Vault: PT: Handling Rejection

This is as relevant today as it was five years ago. Also, I’ve been running this blog for over five years. Yikes.

I'll be watchin' you!

Maybe you got a letter. It could be something you received electronically. One way or another, a submission or entry upon which you’ve spent time and energy has been rejected. Now, I’m not talking about receiving constructive criticism. That’s always a good thing to get. Iron sharpening iron and all that. What I’m on about is the cold shoulder, either in the form of a bland photocopy of a generic letter or a complete and total lack of recognition for your efforts. It’s like fancying yourself a comedian, telling a joke and waiting for the laughs which never come. It breaks the heart and erodes the soul.

If you’re anything like me… well, you might need a shave. But in terms of this sort of thing, after a few rejection letters or seeing a publication for which you wished to contribute which doesn’t include what you sent, you probably went back over your submission with a fine-toothed comb. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? The questions inevitably leave to negative emotions. Maybe you’ll feel put out by the rejection, thinking your work isn’t good enough. There could be some frustration at the difference that ended up existing between what you envision and what you submitted. And maybe getting rejected for whichever time you’ve just been brushed off just pisses you off.


You will learn by the numbers! I will teach you!

Not to re-tread old ground, but I’ve said over and over that negative emotions do not need to lead to negative outcomes. There a lot of things you can do with your feelings. One thing you should not do, however, is sit on your ass. There’s work to be done.

Pop the hood on your work. Strip out parts that rattle or shake. In other words, take a look at your creation and figure out the parts that work. Maybe you have a character or two that really connect with readers, or you’ve gotten some feedback telling you that a particular passage really hammers home the good things about your writing. Maybe there’s that one shot in your portfolio that really jumps off the page.

What about it works? Why does it connect while the rest of the work falls away? Step back and examine the situation, the environment and the construction of the parts that work. Once you recognize what makes those portions successful, strip out everything else and rebuild the work around that core of goodness. This might mean you only need to make a couple small changes, or it might mean you need to all but start from scratch. Don’t fret, though: declaring a do-over could very well be a step in the right direction.


One thing you don’t want to do is rush. There’s no need. Take a deep breath. Make some cocoa. Instead of tearing down what you’ve done and smashing it around with a wrecking ball, lay it out and take a scalpel to it. In the course of doing so, you’ll find things that you’re proud of in spite of the rejection and you’ll also likely find something that makes you smile and shake your head in that “What the hell was I thinking?” sort of way.

It might also be the case that you can’t bear to look at the project that’s been so callously rejected. That’s understandable. But you still have a bunch of bad feelings that need to get vented. You have the old stand-by responses of games, movies, booze and cocoa but the best thing to do, in my opinion and experience, is to do something in the same creative vein to get you thinking about what your next step will be. It could be back to what caused you to feel this way or it could be in a new direction entirely. You won’t know, however, until you take that step.

Whatever you do, no matter how many things you find wrong with your work, no matter how much cocoa you drink, no matter how many rejections you’ll have to deal with in the future, don’t give up. You’re trying to do something new and different. Creative people are inevitably going to face a great deal of opposition because the environment out in the world is one where creativity is seen as a secondary concern to efficiency or profitability, if creativity is acknowledged at all. You want to be fast in your process, efficient in your use of energy, but it can be difficult to bang out work promptly if you’re wrestling with bad feelings or unsure of where to go next. Don’t worry about that. Worry about getting from bad to good first. Then worry about getting things out quickly.

Don’t quit. Especially if your ideas and the need to express them get you out of bed in the morning and motivate you to expend your time and energy of turning them into reality. Screw the rejection and the idea that your creativity doesn’t matter because it doesn’t help you file TPS reports more efficiently.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Harold Whitman

Drinking your cocoa from a mug of Shakespearean insults doesn’t hurt, either.

Writer Report: Forward Motion

Courtesy allthingshealing.com

Preparations for the move are ramping up. Q4 is looming on the horizon at the dayjob. I have a dozen things to do between now and next weekend, and smack dab in the middle of all of that is jury duty.

Compared to these things, progress on Cold Streets feels absolutely glacial.

There is progress, however. Slowly but surely, I’m closing in on the heart of the story. Just as much as I want my villains to be more than flat stereotypes, the main crux of the story is about more than just a supernatural murder. I’m not quite at the point where I feel I can take the plot completely off the rails for the sake of building to a climax; rather, I want there to be motivations and background and conflicts that range beyond the superficial. What I don’t want is for the readers coming back for more of what Cold Iron delivered to feel disappointed.

That could be part of what’s holding me back – that fear. Fear of letting people down. It’s idiotic, of course; I should just write as much as I can as fast as I can so I finish my shit. Those are the rules, right? Right.

Yet I make excuses related to distractions and fatigue and a bunch of other stuff. I really need to cram it when it comes to that. Sure, I may be better equipped to sequester myself after the move (seriously, the layout of the current place ensures about zero privacy) and help is on the way in various forms, but right now, I need to try and cut down what I can to focus on the words.

While any forward motion is good motion, more of it would be fantastic.

Anybody Seen My Motivation?

Dunes of the Namib Desert, taken by Simon Collins

About a year and a half ago I wrote up a post that differentiated between writer’s block and a dry spell. The former’s defined by a lack of ideas, the latter by outside influences draining the writer’s energy and free time. I’d chalk up my current mental state to a dry spell if it weren’t for the fact that I kind of hate everything I write right now. Especially that last sentence. No, wait, that one was pretty bad, too.

In all likelihood it’s some form of post-holiday depression brought on by diminished energy reserves following the exhaustive spending and binges endemic of this time of year. The best way to deal with it will probably end up being just writing through it. It’s like sitting in a traffic jam on the way to an important or exciting event; you can’t just abandon your car, so you sit and wait it out. Unless of course you see an explosion or the shambling hordes of the undead in your rearview. In that case, by all means, abandon that would-be mobile coffin and run like hell.

I find it difficult to motivate myself, however, when I hate everything I write or even think of writing. I think it’s rubbing off from others, as well. This may sound familiar: I want to improve what and how I write, but the possibility of what and how I write right now is not very good, so I don’t do it. Again, the solution is probably to write through it. And if I weren’t me I’d be encouraging me to do just that. Bear down and write through it. Get the bad words out and scuff them from the edges of the good words later. Write for the sake of writing, not necessarily for the approval of others. Just goddamn do it. Right? Right.

I can see why people hate it when I talk like that. Or like this, for that matter.

I have to say I’m glad I’m not a poet. If I were to agonize over every single word I wrote in the interest of meter and pace, I’d probably be even crazier than I already am. I’d dabble in more journalism but in all likelihood, in this state of mind, I’d write the word “fuckers” five thousand times and call it a column on the supporters of SOPA and Protect IP. I mean even in this obscure little blog I can’t keep myself from referencing more brilliant writers, in whose shadows I stand and weep a little bit.

Jon Stewart once said that comedians always know somebody out there with less talent than they have is making more money than they are. I think writers are similar. I also know that people with more talent than I have are struggling for the same eyeballs I want to put my words in front of. I can’t say I’ve ever not known this, but lately it’s been difficult for me to get around that notion, and the hatred of my own writing, and this general feeling of ennui that’s passing through me, hopefully on its way to someone else’s brain.

So, hey, if you’re one of the few dozen people who actually reads this stuff and you’ve had a similar experience, feel free to drop me a comment. Misery loves company, after all, and it would be good to know I’m not alone when it comes to self-loathing and enervation teaming up to hold one’s motivation to ransom.

Twenty Twelve


So here we are, folks. The calendars have been swapped, the Dramamine passed around, the coffee brewed and we stand now looking at where the sidewalk ends.

It’s not like I think there’s any major cataclysm coming at the end of 2012. It’s far more likely that the Mayans simply felt that a couple thousand years was more than enough time to plan ahead for things. It’s unrealistic to think that they sat there carving dates into stone over and over again just for the carving’s sake. They had lives, after all. Or maybe the lives of the chroniclers was cut short by a conquistador’s saber. It’s something we may never know.

What I do know is that new years mean new possibilities. This takes the form of ‘resolutions’ for most. You can probably categorize what follows similarly, though most of mine are based on the previous year’s shortcomings.

While I did write quite a bit last year, I’ve little to show for it other than a pile of blog entries, a few YouTube videos, a pair of unrefined manuscripts and a half-dozen short stories in that curious limbo between “written” and “publishable”. So the first thing I’m going to do is get my fiction in print. That print may be electronic on an e-reader or out in the wild on one of those dwindling bookstore shelves, but it’ll get there, one way or another.

I discovered Day[9] in 2011, and as he suggests during his daily I plan on simply being a better gamer this year. I’ll try out more games, get better at the competitive games I play – StarCraft 2, League of Legends, shooters and games that of course haven’t been released yet. I’m talking about more than ranks as well. I’ll behave like a better gamer, support the independents and try to deliver as unbiased a review for a given game as possible. And if I find I was mistaken about something, you’ll be sure I’ll do my utmost to correct myself.

Music has been a big part of my life. I’d like to keep it as more than just singing in the car or shower and occasionally playing Rock Band with friends. I had piano lessons when I was younger and it may behoove me to try and blow the dust off that skill set, perhaps growing into guitar & electric bass playing. Returning to music can only help the flow of my creative juices, provided I can make the time and have the resources to do it.

Live healthier is one you often hear, but I know I’ve fallen away from healthy living a bit since I started commuting again. I miss walking to train stations and around downtown Philadelphia. There’s a Retro Fitness not far from my current location and it may be worth looking into.

I think that about wraps up the whole ‘resolutions’ thing. Here’s to a great 2012.

Putting the “Dead” in Deadlines

Courtesy monkeyc.net
Courtesy monkeyc.net

I am very, very good at procrastination.

Even as I write this I’m debating putting it off. I need to go to the post office and the library, the little voice says, the blog can wait. Who reads this stuff, anyway? Oh, and it’s about time for a fresh cup of tea. Wasn’t scratching behind the kitten’s ears fun? Yeah, let’s do that some more, then sort some Magic cards. Screw the job search and the writing, that stuff’s just depressing.

Allow me to give that sentiment – and maybe yours – a mental steel-toed kick to its metaphorical balls.

I wasn’t a fantastic student in university. Of the many papers I wrote, only a few were heavily researched and edited before turning them in. Most of them were dashed off based on scribbled, Ramen-stained notes the night before. Still managed to pass, though.

Having milestones, deadlines and checkpoints always helps. They can be major or minor, but like achievements in video games, they’re something to work towards. Sometimes I’ll make it, other times I won’t. But how does one hone a work ethic when there’s no set work to be done?

You set the deadlines yourself.

And you stick to them.

A couple weeks ago I hemmed and hawed about my to-do list. Since then I realized I do, in fact, want to write a sixth story for my anthology. But Red Hood took a lot longer than it should have to put together and a little reading of Revenge of the Penmonkey (available on Amazon and Nook, review later this week, short version: YOU GO BUY NOW) helped me realize why. I’d given myself no deadline. I spent mornings on Monster and Jobfox and whatnot, letting the best and most active period of time for my brain dribble away in a drab, seemingly hopeless and endless search for a new dayjob while Unemployment jerks me around.

Resolved to fix this after last night’s unfortunate turn of events with Building New Worlds (reschedule pending), I jotted down some titles and dates on a Post-it and stuck it onto my desk, opposite my StarCraft 2 reminders and the big one saying I need to write 1000 words that aren’t in the blog every day. I consider that a bare minimum.

Now I’ll be doing it in the mornings because dammit, I have deadlines to meet.

Specifically I’ve given myself until the 11th to finish this last short story. I’ve set Halloween as the date to send the veteran his edited manuscript, and while that’s going on I have until Thanksgiving (almost two months) to tackle the rewrite of Citizen in the Wilds. And after that, Valentine’s Day 2012 is the drop-dead date to complete the first round of edits and second draft of Cold Iron.

See, the thing is, if you don’t establish deadlines, especially if you’re doing something where they’re not established for you, the ‘dead’ part of the word rises from the rest and may very well choke the life out of your endeavor. We get distracted. Important things get our attention. Kitchen appliances explode. Earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, smog. Cats rubbing on our shins. Spouses, too.

I’m not saying chain yourself to your desk, glue your wrists to the bottom portion of the keyboard and type until your fingers bleed. Unless you have to. What I’m saying is impose some sort of structure on what you’re doing. Make promises to yourself about the amount of work you’re going to do, and for the love of whichever muse you think visits you in the night to whisper sweet writerly nothings in your ear, do not break them.

When you do, it’s not the deadlines who have the upper hand. It’s you. And when the deadline arrives and your work is done, you’re the one pointing and laughing at the deadline’s postmortem twitches and spasms, rather than being the victim of your own procrastination.

With me? Good. Once again, let us pray.

Courtesy terribleminds
Courtesy terribleminds

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