Depressing, no?

Someone said about my post yesterday that it was depressing to read how many potentially good stories are not published. It is true that a good magazine gets many, many more submissions than it can use. It even gets many more good submissions than it can use.

Being a writer can be depressing. You start off the year with good hopes, but as sale-less months pass, you feel less like a writer and more like hack.

This is normal, and another reason why you shouldn’t get too hung up about rejections. Although I made a really good sale this month, I sold absolutely nothing after 6 January last year. This is because I raised my own standards, and because I didn’t write as many short stories.

Everyone gets rejections, and the high of a sale usually lasts less long than the dry periods in between.

Advertisement

do you have a cocoon of safety?

There have been some noises recently about writers blaming magazine editors for their failure to get published. Apparently, in case you didnt know this yet, and notice my tongue is firmly in cheek, there is a conspiracy that prevents new writers from getting published. On a more serious note, fellow ex-OWW-er Ann Leckie discussed coping mechanisms for writers who suffer lots of rejections and not much success. For obvious reasons, she suggested that lashing out at editors on a public site is probably a bad idea.

I’ve thought about these coping mechanisms, and one of them is the cocoon.

Let me explain.

Do you have a tight-knit group of writers who first joined XX workshop about the same time you did? Do you always/mostly read their work and give them supportive commentary? Do you as a group band together when someone, mostly someone who hasn’t been at the site/workshop for as long as you have, and ‘obviously’ doesn’t know the ‘rules’, gives any of your group an ‘unnecessarily’ harsh review? Do you all agree and chime in that this person is an idiot and excessively rude to boot, and none of you will ever return their reviews?

If you’ve answered yes to most of these questions, then you have a cocoon, a place where you can slip after your confidence has taken a beating, and where everyone will confirm that yes, you are a good writer, and the world out there is just full of idiots.

Cocoons are very useful. Often, these people will be your friends for much of your writing career. They give you safety, and a place to run where you can be sure that people are nice to you. That’s fine, but they’re a coping mechanism, and it’s good to realise what’s happening.

To make progress in your writing, there comes a time you must step outside the cocoon and face the harsh world. Keep the cocoon and take shelter when life is temporarily too hard, but don’t confuse your cocoon with the general readership, or with possible reactions from agents and publishers.