I’m going to change the nature of this blog very slightly this year, as there probably won’t be so many of the breathless “Look at me I won something” and “Look at me I’ve had something published” posts. This is mainly because I’m intending to focus a bit more on writing longer stuff – but do note the use of the word “intending” there though. So I’m thinking of doing the odd review and interview from time to time as well as the occasional homily from my lofty position as a Nearly Published Author. Hope this works for you out there, although I’m guessing the Russian viagrabots probably won’t care one way or another (hi, by the way, and no thanks, but it was nice of you to offer).
When I was made redundant from my last proper job, back in the early nineties, I did something odd that I’ve only recently worked out the reason for. After I’d had my interview with my boss (which I really hadn’t seen coming and the nature of which I only realised when it became apparent that he was reading from a script) and he’d walked me up to my office to collect my things, we paused on the steps outside the building. Then before I turned to head off into an uncertain future with a mortgage and young family to support, I shook his hand.
For years afterwards, I wondered why I’d done this. It was entirely instinctive, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. But surely I was letting the man off the hook? Shouldn’t I have sworn at him and spat in his face? He was, after all, potentially ruining my life; in the early nineties, there weren’t many opportunities going, I had serious commitments and my financial position was heading due South even before this happened.
What I eventually worked out was that the handshake wasn’t for his benefit at all. It was all for mine. Basically I was saying to myself that I was big enough to cope with this in a dignified manner and there was no point in bearing a grudge. It was all about (here comes that word) closure. It meant that I could put it all behind me and move on without dwelling on the past. Which is, pretty much, what I did. (Incidentally, it struck me at the same time as this revelation that the Christian principle of “loving thine enemy and praying for thy persecutors” works on exactly the same basis – it’s not for your enemies’ and persecutors’ benefit, but yours. Why did no one ever explain this to me? Or maybe I simply wasn’t listening. Pity. Me and Christianity might have got on better.)
The relevance of this to writing is of course that writing is all about rejection. It will seem at times as if the entire publishing world is up against you. But the more you dwell on this fact, the less time you’ll spend writing and – more importantly – getting better at writing. So here’s a tip: every time you get an e-mail from an agent or publisher saying that your work isn’t quite right for them (or whatever), get right back to them to thank them for letting you know. You’ll feel so much better for doing so and they will be ever so slightly confused (which will also make you feel good). Then move onwards and upwards. Whatever you do, don’t bear a grudge against them in particular or (worse) the entire industry. It will only hold you back.
A similar principle applies to having your work critiqued. But maybe that’s a slightly different subject for another time.