On Rejection, and the Instant Gratification of Wattpad

It feels wasteful to write about writing. If I’m going to sit here and type, shouldn’t I type the things themselves instead of typing about the things? Yet, up there it does say that this is in part a writing blog. So I’ll bite. Or rather, you bite. I’ll tug.

I finished the first story of a fan-fiction on Wattpad today (this one, about Capt. Jack Sparrow and Dr. Frank N. Furter). I actually finished it probably over ten years ago now, but this is a re-write that’s actually, you know, good. There are thousands of pages of this story sitting in two binders, and I’m polishing them up nice n’ shiny for the Internet.

Why?

Because rejection is awful, you guys. Rejection is sad. But more than that, rejection is necessary. It’s the stuff that fills the middle chapters, before you get something published but after you embark on your little writer’s dream. If you are a bad writer, you will get rejected. It’s just as true, though, that you will get rejected if you are a good writer.

Which one am I? I have no idea. I only know that I have to stick out the rejection for as long as I can. I have to keep writing (easy), and keep submitting (way harder), if I ever want to see success. This could either be my lot entirely, or just the hazing period, and I’ll never know unless I keep trying.

Wattpad, posting this fan-fiction, is a morale-booster for the meantime. I get followers. People give me little virtual back-pats. I don’t worry so much about every little word and bit of punctuation. I let things flow. I flex my brain and fingers. There’s an energy in writing these stories — re-writing them, re-working them — that is closer to the imaginative transportation I experienced as a kid and teenager.

And I don’t have to wait around for a reaction that is usually negative, or just bored. I get positive reinforcement, almost immediately. And I am not too proud to say I need it. I really, really do. Otherwise, I’d give up. I wouldn’t send original fiction to the New Yorker because, whatever, it’s just another rejection at worst!

I couldn’t be as care-free about it. I’d just keep my original work to myself.

I submitted a piece to an anthology (that was calling for mostly Canadian work) a couple of weeks ago and got my first-ever really personal rejection. The story wasn’t for them, the publisher wrote, but then they gave a few things that they felt made the story a good read. They said I was welcome to submit again, but it would have to be really excellent for them to take even one story outside of Canada. I thought I really must be getting somewhere, to get such attention and praise. Then I wondered if they were just being nice because they’re Canadian.

Then I started figuring out where the story should go next.

It’s a hard step, the one forward, after someone says “No thanks.” I’m not sure you can truly grasp how difficult it is unless you’ve been there, finally getting some correspondence after weeks — sometimes months — of waiting, from correspondents who are as uninterested in you as you have been obsessed with them.

I have two other stories out now, which I expect will be rejected even as I hope they won’t be. The odds are not in my favor. They never will be. But I cannot stop, if this is what I want. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not ashamed of doing what I have to do, of playing in the fan-fiction sandbox, so that I can get on with work (my original prose). You shouldn’t begrudge yourself your guilty pleasures either. If fear is in the way of your journey to maybe-success-but-maybe-just-spectacular-waste-of-time-and-thus-ultimate-failure, then find a thing that helps the metaphorical medicine go down.

No pain, no gain, sure. But also, no one said you couldn’t use Band-Aids or anything.

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