Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping Positive

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Keeping positive can be tough sometimes and I know a lot of my fellow writers out there, myself included, are not unfamiliar with sting of having their manuscripts rejected. Its part of the game, for every one glimmer of hope a would-be writer may have with one agent, they will probably have a hundred rejections along the way. We know to anticipate it and always keep pushing, but that doesn’t make it any easier when something you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into ends up not seeing the light of day. So, what keeps a writer going when they’ve lost traction and they feel they can’t make any headway in this dog-eat-dog publishing world? 

First off, you usually don’t have it as bad as you think. Really, think about it. There are lots of would-be authors out there right now living in some distant place where they can’t even get food and water, let alone pen, paper, or a laptop. In some countries the government will take you away for writing what you think. These are all obstacles we do not have, thankfully. Second, and possibly most importantly, you’re a writer. So write! If you’re having trouble marketing you current book, take a break from it and go write something new. There are a lot of different gateways into the publishing world and sometimes one book may get you in when another wont. That doesn’t mean that once you’ve established yourself you can’t go back and try to publish that older manuscript that you knew really had something, but was just too risky for literary agents to want to take a chance on at first. Thirdly, persist, persist, and persist. I like to use the analogy of a rash when pursuing avenues for publication…hey, agent, you better scratch me, because I’m not going away.

I suppose I could wrap all three elements of perspective, work, and persistence into the overall umbrella of keeping positive. Stay happy, it’s so much more worthwhile than the alternative. Right now, you’re paying your dues. Tony Bennett once said, about singing and art, that when looking back the part of your life when you paid your dues ends up being the most important. It’s there when you’re the most starving and hungry that you really develop your craft. And there’s no shortage of great authors who had to deal with this adversity. On of my favorite examples, is when Remarque tried to find an agent for All Quiet on the Western Front, probably the greatest war novel ever written. One arrogant agent told him flatly, “who on earth would want to read this?” And that was back in the 1920s. So keep a stiff upper lip folks, and turn to your favorite books because those authors will help sustain you just as they too were sustained through their hard years by inspirational authors who came before them. As the saying goes amongst sailors when caught in a squall…never say die.