Thursday, October 16, 2014

Don't Let The Little Things Stop You

"I'm sick of rejection letters."

"I'm not a good writer."

"I'm blocked." 

"I don't have time to write."

Used any of those before?

We come up with a lot of excuses for not writing when we're either blocked, insecure, or not sufficiently motivated.

The truth is, writing is a mental muscle: If you don't flex it regularly, it loses strength and can even disappear.

I never could have imagined having "writer's block." I had so many ideas, and so much to explore in writing, that the idea of stopping didn't occur to me. I read indefatigably, wrote routinely, edited and re-edited with dedication.

Then two things happened: A. The world did not come to my open doorway, panting for my book. A few agents gave me feedback, a story sold and earned praise, other stories were rejected repeatedly. My courage faltered. B. Something happened in my family that squelched the creative flow, leaving me gasping for air like a kid punched in the stomach.

The solution to both A and B is more simple than it sounds: Keep writing.

Don't let rejection or tragedy become excuses. If you realized how many known authors had persevered through failure, you would be heartened. Really. While a pile of rejections may (or may not) be a signal that you need to rewrite or re-edit your manuscript, crisp it up, workshop it or shove it in a drawer—all of which have been done—it can just as well be a failure to find the right agent or market. Timing and connecting are critical, but there's no formula for making them manifest themselves.

So don't blame yourself: keep writing, keep submitting.

It took famed mystery writer Agatha Christie five years to find a publisher. Dr. Seuss was told his stories were "too different" to sell.  His books have had over 300 million sales.
Louis L'Amour, westerns author, received 200 rejections before Bantam accepted him; he became their best-selling author."Chicken Soup for the Soul" racked up 140 rejections because, hey, anthologies don't sell. The Chicken Soup series is still riding high on the lists, with all sorts of new editions. After five publishers rejected her manuscript, L.M. Montgomery shelved "Anne of Green Gables." Then, she dug it out two years later ... and tried again. Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times that she self-published. Her story, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," has sold more than 45 million copies.

The list goes on: Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind," 38 rejections; "The Diary of Anne Frank," 16 rejections; Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight," 14 rejections; WM Paul Young's "The Shack," 20 rejections; Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," 26 rejections; Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife," 25 rejections; Kathryn Stockett, "The Help," 60 times.

My point: This list goes on and on and on, including some of the best-known authors of all time. And what that means is that we all get rejected. Over and over again. Don't give up.
"You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance," Ray Bradbury once wrote. And that requires belief in yourself. Sure, a critic may, as Dorothy Parker famously advised, say that your book should not be tossed lightly aside but instead be hurled with great force." It doesn't matter. Readers have shown, again and again, that they may love what a publisher or agent hates.

As for the second matter: write through tragedy. Even if it hurts. If you shelve the worry and try to go on, it will end up weighing so much in your heart that you may be unable to write about anything at all.

My first attempts to write were read with tears in my writing group. The pieces I wrote were emotional, heartfelt, and mostly venting. I have no current intention of publishing them. I wrote them for me.

That's OK. You may, like myself, have to write it out several times before you put some distance between it and your creative spark. By then, you will have freed yourself to write other things.

If you don't work on it, you are unlikely to move forward. Believe me, I know this. It took nearly three years for me to break free. I wrote when I no longer cared about writing. My writing group literally saved me from completely stopping. It was the one safe place where I could let it out. I'm not a fan of crying while I read, but it happened, and they were cool with it.

You are a writer. Don't let anyone say anything different.

Now, carry on.

Ann Connery Frantz is a freelance writer/editor and author of "Read It and Reap," published monthly in the Worcester, Mass., Telegram & Gazette. She has written a novel and short stories, one of which won the annual Dr. Neila C. Seshachari Award for Fiction from Weber University’s “Weber: The Contemporary West” literary journal (

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