Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Art of Not Being Rejected

by Jon Egan

I just read Kathy’s blog post, “The Little Black Book,” and was jolted into reality about the art and craft of writing and the dedication it takes to actually be a writer. It’s so much more than just throwing words on paper and rearranging them till they fit what you had in mind in the first place.

Turns out that’s kind of the easy part. Kinda.

I’ve written so much over the years, not hugely prolific, more like a sporadic continuous pace; that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.

I’ve got poetry written on old time sheets; I’ve got essays written in aging lined school books; I’ve got short stories written on loose leaf pages in binders, and I’ve got books written on my laptop. I’ve only ever submitted three items for publication (I’m not counting letters to the editor or stuff my mum published in her local newspaper.)

I’m not sure why I don’t submit stuff for publication. I spoke to a therapist about it one time and she told me that in her mind there were two explanations, the first being fear of failure, and the second being fear of success. I think I just found the real reason after reading Kathy’s blog, I believe it could be the fear of the injustice of the publishing process, or at least my perception of it.

I’ve read a lot of what Kathy’s written, and while I realize it’s personal taste, I just happen to love how and what she writes and I am astonished that she isn’t a New York Times Best Selling Author! No this isn’t a mutual admiration society between me and Kathy, it’s just that I know how hard she’s worked at this and it blows my mind. And while it blows it, it also scares me that someone so talented isn’t yet coasting along as a well-regarded writer. If Kathy can’t break in, then what hope is there for me? Why should I bother to submit and suffer through the heartache of rejection, or worse yet, the heartache of not even hearing back.
If talent alone is required to be a prominent writer, then Swagger writer
Kathy Cannon Wiechman should be there by now.

It scares me that someone as organized as Kathy is when it comes to their craft isn’t a member of The Club, because I really, really suck at organization.

So what is the answer? Is it a magic stamp on the submission envelope? A secret handshake at the conventions we attend? Is there a certain day that you should mail/e-mail your submission? There’s a lot of bad published writing out there (again it comes down to personal preference) that some acquisitions editor and committee sat down and went, “Yep, this ones a winner,” when in reality it’s really bad; I mean can’t-get- past-the-first-page bad and yet it makes it to the hallowed grounds of published book.

I guess maybe that’s the real fear I have, the fear of subjectiveness, the fear that because my manuscript didn’t land on the interns' desk on the right day, or that they maybe had a hangover the morning they picked up my stuff and were reaching for the Alka Seltzer while scanning the first sentence, that my manuscript suddenly becomes a distraction rather than an attraction, that my manuscript was used to wipe up the spilt coffee caused by trembling hands, or that the intern forgot where he/she was in the pile sitting on their desk and mine was unintentionally, but cruelly, passed over for consideration.

I may have a completely unrealistic and inappropriate fear, but I think there has to be some credence to my theories, or else we would surely not hear these stories of rejection from writers of the caliber of the Kathy Wiechman’s of the world. I think my stuff should make it onto bookshelves, and I do believe that I’m a good writer, even if I don’t know how to punctuate, but I have a feeling my stuff won’t make it onto bookshelves even if I do send it out, so I sit back and take the easy way out and don’t even submit it.

Am I alone in my fears?

How many of you people reading this blog have an un-submitted piece sitting in their drawer?

How many have simply given up submitting anything and now just write to write?


  1. Is it time to launch Swagger Publishing?

    1. Now. Let's put this on our Swagger Reunion itinerary. I am serious!

    2. I've been checking into it, seriously. I've found some amazing contacts to get more informed about this, have quotes for publishing, artwork, distribution, and marketing even have the name of the imprint registered :)
      This will in no way be vanity or self publishing but I think its a worthwhile endeavor.
      So Gina, do you have an itinerary in mind yet?

    3. You go, Jon! You've sparked a fire under your own bum.

  2. I have a book filled with unpublished poetry, the only thing anyone see of my writing now are my travel articles that I write for my site, but being mainly news based it definitely limits the creativeness

    1. I've read some of your poetry and believe me it's something that should not be kept from the world!
      In fact I'd love to read more, maybe you could be my first guest blogger on my blog site??

  3. First of all, WOW! Thank you, Jon, for your kind & very appreciated words about my work. It helps to know my years in this business haven't gone completely unnoticed.
    And second, it can be tough to send things out for the 5th, 6th, or 120th time. But underneath all that doubt & fear, you have to find that spark of hope that makes you put that envelope in the mail. Remind yourself, "This is good." (And yours is, my friend.) Believe in yourself, even when the publishers don't seem to. (I believe in you, Jon.)
    A wise person once said that hard work pays off in the end, & I'm not ready to give up on that yet. The wise person just didn't say how long I'd have to keep up the hard work.

  4. Oh what is that saying - success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? Something like that. I think it's mostly about the willingness to keep at it. Your talent (and Kathy's) are without question. Just keep swimming.

  5. Thanks Juliet,
    definitely still swimming, but considering a little different pool :)

  6. Jon, you can't keep your delightful perspective and voice hidden from a public in need of laugher and insight. Bill Bryson can only write so many books a year -- give us a all break and publish!

  7. Jon, Thanks for sharing Kathy's story. I'm sure the echo is heard round the world.

    Kathy, Hoping your dreams & wishes come true this year!

    1. Thanks, Clara. Whether they do or not, I'm still plugging away.