"My Mother did me the great disservice of telling me that I could do anything I wanted. I believed her. I believed every lie anyone has ever told me, including the big lies like 'everything will be all right'."
-Ralph Pullins, "Family Stories" (unpublished)
I have been rejected again. Twice, actually, since the last time I have written about this. Judging from my choice of quotes above (mine this time), I am ...displeased.
For those keeping score at home, I am now 0 for 3.
So what, right? Now is where I go and read a bunch of stories about how Dr Seuss was fired from an advertising job because he was deemed not creative enough, or about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, about how some incredible writer was rejected again and again, and shit, yeah, OK, I know all that but really this stuff means the same to me as the poster over the chair at my dentist of the bulldog wearing boxing gloves that reads "hang tough." Yes, no doubt, all these things are true to some degree, but for every story like that, there's got to be thousands, millions of stories that just went untold because the person that got rejected over and over and over got tired of getting beat up and just fucking quit. The trouble with all these platitudes is that I'm not Dr Seuss, I'm not Jordan. I'm just some guy that wrote some stuff, not a legend.
Here's the thing I have been thinking of: terrible writers don't know that they suck. I have been to a few writers conferences, have attended a few Creative Writing classes, and I know for sure that there are people out there that just suck. I don't want to be the one to say it, but it is true. I am not talking about people that write things that I'm just not into, mysteries about plucky elderly ladies solving crimes with their cats, or bodice ripper period romances, or rich girl in the city just seeking Mr. right, no, those things all have merit and value and have their own place on shelves everywhere (just maybe not mine). I'm talking about just straight up terrible writing happily and confidently submitted for peer review. That writer doesn't know that they suck, and it seems to fall to agents and publishers and lit mag editors to tell them that their writing sucks. What I have been thinking about is: What if that is me, and all this time nobody has had the heart to tell me?
It's not me. I know it. I know, when I'm not allowing myself the luxurious wallow in self pity and doubt, that the book is solid, that it just needs to get into the right hands, that I should be glad when I get rejected because I don't want it to be in the hands of an agent or publisher that doesn't believe in it the way I do. I should be grateful.
I may not be a legend, but I certainly don't suck.
I believe. Honestly.
But there is still that voice, that poisonous bastard hiding somewhere in my psyche telling me that I'm not special, asking me who the hell do I think I am, what do I have to offer anyone, why am I wasting my time trying to be something I am not...
I hate it.