Past, Present, Future

In Local projects, Querying, Rejection on March 12, 2015 at 8:59 am

The boy broke down in tears a few seconds after I took his picture. Too hard, he said. He’d never understand. Why was I scolding him all the time. He’d never make it. Etc.

The fact is, the boy has huge challenges. Not least of which his buying into the underachiever mind set of his father (whose struggles with alcohol started at age nine), and the forever-overwhelmed vibe put out by his mother. When I suggested she take five minutes of her time to review with her son the present tense of the verbs to be and to have, she looked close to a major melt-down. In fact, I felt like a spokesperson for the Inquisition, outlining the schedule of her tour in the torture chamber.

I’m not making fun of either because my own reactions to criticism are in close parallel to theirs. A problem for actors and for writers: you can’t do either in full-battle armor. Nor can you let yourself sink into a sobbing heap because someone criticizes your choice of verb tense. And yet, you do. As best you can, you keep the sobbing sessions short and private.

Working on the query list. One agent I know I’ll query was the first one I dared approach some seven or eight years ago. Knocking on doors that slammed shut before – is that evidence of stupidity, of masochism or both? I don’t think so. If the fit struck me as likely then, and still strikes me as likely now, why should I not risk another rejection or even – imagine – risk a positive response?

The very first rejection my writing received is now a distant memory of shattered illusions. The editor had played at graciousness because I worked for a public figure to whom he wished to ingratiate himself. I’d missed the connection but got the message loud and clear. His was the only detailed rejection letter I ever received. Thankfully, his criticism was so far off the mark, the shattered illusions came with an unexpected feeling of relief. Nobody wants representation for the wrong reasons.

So, the balancing act. You write because, at some level, the child never learned to behave as demanded. Never learned how to not see what adults said did not exist. Somehow the rest of who you are has got to handle giving that kid the space to have and to be.

  1. “You write because, at some level, the child never learned to behave as demanded.”

    My experience is that it is worth taking the risk. Mostly I read along quietly. Thank you for your writing.

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