A writer friend of mine commented recently about how there’s nothing quite like a writer’s hope—no matter how many times a writer is rejected, no matter what the critics or the group says about the latest piece, there is always something for a writer to look forward to—another outlet, another new journal that just might print the story, another agent or publisher to whom you can submit the novel.
That’s me in the last instance. This afternoon I sent the box with the ms to another agent. That was only after I’d been rejected by the first agent and did another revision on the entire book after she made a somewhat disparaging comment about the writing. Although I’m optimistic this time, I’m already thinking about where to query next if she says no. There’s a friend of a friend who knows an agent, and there’s this agent I found in a magazine who doesn’t take historical fiction exactly, but he did sell a novel that had one of the same words in the title … that sort of thing.
Maybe that’s what keeps some writers going, the knowledge that there is always another possibility. It’s a bit of an obsession, a drug of sorts, that keeps us coming back for another shot at being published (read: vindicated, validated).
In a class on the Craft of Fiction for which I’m assisting the instructor (Kathleen Alcalá, an excellent historical novelist, by the way), we’re currently discussing Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. She makes a case for writing not for monetary reward or recognition, but for the satisfaction that the art brings to the individual. If only it could work that way. Since we live in a market economy, our value as writers is dependent on our ability to be published (unless, of course, you’re independently wealthy). Even art has been turned into a competition, with thousands of hopeful writers vying to fill a few hundred or so places in lit journals, and a few dozen slots for novels. The best we can do is to try to separate ourselves from the business aspects of literature when we sit down at the keyboard, but that’s not always easy to do, since those business aspects are now so much a part of the writer’s life—so much more than when Ueland published her book in 1939.