I am currently shopping When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal to literary agents. I have been rejected 63 times already. The last rejection was the first one that provided me any feedback. Its feedback included some of what my beta readers tried to hit on but, didn’t quite. But, I’m not sure I can rework anything now with this project that started its infancy — rough outline and lots of thinking about it — back in 2009 and I did the final rewrite and typed The End in November of 2015. In January, I started looking for literary representation.
Sixty-three rejections may seem like a lot. It is. However, I had determined that I wouldn’t quit until at least 122 no-thank-yous filled my email, giving me one more rejection than what it took Robert M. Pirsig to get Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance accepted for publication. In my efforts, last week’s feedback from one agent willing to take just an extra minute and explain their thoughts on my work, although good – drilling down to the core of why this manuscript is unique and a hard sell, created a feeling of futility in me. I felt like I should just quit. It didn’t matter that this one agent said I was a good writer. I’ll be 50 years old in November and the traditionally published novel evades me. I wrote my first “book” at 8 years old. By 18, and hundreds of short stories and essays later, I had written my first full-length novel. Today I have probably 30 novels in various states of completion.
However, When A Raven Pecks Out Your Normal was the one that felt like professional-caliber stuff, my magnum opus, if you will. This was the story I needed the world to see. But rejection #63 about killed any energy and motivation I had, even given that it was the nicest of the entire haul of rejections.
In a way, I have quit. Allow me to elaborate. Last week, I lamented in my Sno Valley Writes! blog that I was at that cusp of quitting, and needed some encouragement, advice, what have you, from my fellow writers to keep my writer’s sanity. Truly, I was as close to quitting writing as I have ever come. Many an artist friend responded and told me to not give up. My ever-supportive spouse said to keep fighting. But, none of that was helping.
Then, a good friend of mine, fellow writer, and Sno Valley Writes! member, Sheri J. Kennedy, suggested I take a break. No writing, no editing, no forced morning pages. Just say goodbye to my butt-in-chair attitude on my writing life. She firmly, but lovingly told me to do this until I was rested, rejuvenated, and willing to get back into it. She even gave a nod to that fact that #LifewithAutism has been extremely trying on my patience bandwidth. She keyed in that I needed to give myself permission to take a break. Much like I urged all my fellow writers back in 2008 with the creation of Sno Valley Writes! to give themselves permission to be writers, I needed to give myself permission to not write.
But not doing anything as a writer has never been a part of my life. The creative cycle always includes a marker of self-doubt, and angst. I normally acknowledge it, feel pissy about it for a few hours (yes, just hours) and fly right through to loving my writing again. This time has been different. I am at the six-day mark. No writing. No pitching. No editing. No journaling. And until this particular post, no blogging. When that voice said I should be working on The Perthshire Gargoyles, or pitching, or editing Wilderness Rim, I just pulled a Nancy Reagan and said, “No.”
Given that I’ve written this blog post, a seeming necessary step to acknowledging my writing sabbatical, I may be slowly coming out of the writing funk I’ve been in. The key word is slowly. Being a writer in a society that puts little value on art and stories seems a fool’s journey. However, as another fellow writer, Bill Reynolds, said to me, “Writing is not a habit. It’s an identity.” I have identified as a writer for as long as I can remember.
Bill also said, “I once read, ‘we are all writers.’ In the sense that those of us literate enough to write, do write, we are indeed all writers. But we all do not say I am a playwright, an essayist, a novelist, or even a ghostwriter. We may all read, and many of us will say that we are readers, or avid readers. But only a select few of us will identify as editors. Writers will often critique or review the writing of others. In that role, we may say we are critics. One who does art may, or may not, identify as an artist. If they do, they may further qualify as a painter, sketch artist, sculptor, potter, actor, glass artist, illustrator, dramatist, director, or writer. I am a writer, a novice in the fictional and creative art of writing, still-in-all, I identify as a writer regardless of the acceptance or opinion of others simply because that is what I do. It has nothing to do with being published, what I write, how good or skilled I am, what anyone thinks of my writing, my grammar or spelling. The only thing that currently matters is that I write. It is what I am. If you write….”
Bill is correct. I am a writer. I’ll come back to it, eventually. However, the break right now is needed. You can’t write for an entire lifetime nonstop without taking a break. We’re Human. Breaks are part of the deal, whether it’s a night’s sleep, a vacation, even an afternoon nap. You have to rest. That’s where I am right now: Writing Rest.
See you again when I’m done taking a writing rest.