I’ve gotten to the stage of rejection whereby they thank you for sending the story, let you know they liked it, but that they can’t use it in their particular publication and to please keep submitting. It’s the next rung up. That’s good. The first rung is just an impersonal form letter saying thanks but no thanks. There is apparently an entire ladder of success with the lowest rungs belonging to rejection letters from publishers. Actually, I think it comes down to exposure. It takes so god awful long to get anything back. On a short story it can take 4 months. And you only send one short out to one market at a time. So, in a year you get maybe 3 or 4 outlets to shop it at. That’s slow. So you need dozens of short stories, actually probably hundreds. You should see the list Stephen King has. He was rejected so many times he filled up a nail on the wall, then when the nail fell down, he put up a rail road spike, then when that got too full he put up another rail road spike and filled it. All that before he got a single acceptance. You can read all about it in “On Writing” by Stephen King. The best book far and wide on the subject of writing for writers.
One of things you often hear when you tell someone that you are a writer is that they too want or wanted to be a writer. It’s such a romantic notion, I think, the idea of sitting with a bottle of malt scotch, writing the next great epic in some quaint ocean village on the coast of Spain. I used to have that exact fantasy. I don’t think I’ve ever had malt scotch. I have been to Spain though and they had plenty of booze. But I couldn’t write like that. I have to be sober.
Then there is the whole coffee shop fantasy about writing amidst the dazzling aromas and collection of eclectic sophisticates with their dread lock hair, nose rings and goatees.
I mainly write in my room. Sometimes I go to Starbucks, but that’s usually only after I’ve spent way too much time in my room, by myself. I wonder often if it’s a curse. Whether it be self-imposed or some affliction I picked up along the way. It’s addicting I know that. Four years ago when I decided to get serious about it, writing was hard to do. It was like sticking pincushions in your eyeballs to see if it hurt or not. Then somewhere along the line the pin cushions stopped hurting, and then I started craving the feel of that slender, cold metal sliding in and out of those well primed pressure points.
Sounds terrible. But some people will know what I mean. It’s like anything else, the more you do it the better you get and the easier it becomes and after a while, what caused you pain doesn’t hurt anymore and you like it. Like Mexican food.
But it’s hard to start. It’s still hard to start for me. And it’s work. The concept of writing in some euphoric daze with stars in your eyeballs is true a very small percentage of the time. Mostly its just plain old work, like laying concrete forms or house framing. Only thing is, you’re constructing a universe instead of a house and that has to be the coolest thing there is. There are all manner of universes, both internal and external and I believe that a writer is building universes no matter what he writes.
Up till now, I’ve forgotten to include this small bit of fame. I did manage to get a short story out in print here, last month. It is called “Behind Closed Walls” and you can read about it here:
I don’t know if you could buy that particular issue. You could try. They allow you to buy single issues and you could request it. Maybe you’d get it, maybe you’d get something else. You can read my interview however at that link.
Anyways, the role of fiction is an interesting subject. I believe that fiction, be it Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy or Literary, has a role, a mission if you will. And I have found a way to explain it. If you’ve ever taken homeopathic medicine you know that it works by taking a teensy bit of the disease and feeds it back into your body, then your body recognizes it and is able to create an immune response. But before that you’re body was so overwhelmed with the affliction that it apparently couldn’t do anything effective to combat it. Well, I think fiction’s role is similar.
Here we are, humans all, living life. We go from day to day, year to year, doing what we do. We all encounter the same stuff. We all have problems. We all live in an economy and are all subject to the same universal laws. Some are higher than others, some are lower. But, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, gay or straight, we are all in the same sinking or floating boat. You ever get that feeling? When certain things like the stock market and job security start falling away, you start seeing it more clearly. Anyway, after awhile you can get kind of beaten down. You can get kind of weathered, a little green under the gills. So, you sit down and watch a movie or read a book. You can play video games too, but I don’t know anything about that. Anyways, in the pages of a book, or in the frames of a movie you find things. You find familiar things. You find yourself, you find that crazy guy down the street, or at work. You find loneliness, you find emotion, tears, happiness, you find superheroes–you find little bits of life, that to you, are the most real bits there are. Little teensy bits that you ingest into your psyche. (And by the way, mythological things like superheroes, dragons, and the like—they are a part of life in that those things are an ideal that man recognizes. People love superheroes because they represent an ideal state, they represent the best that one can be.)
On the big screen or in chapter sixteen the main character realizes his role in the world, or his passionate love, and you realize it too, and it heals you. It makes you know that there is beauty in the world, or adventure, or love. It makes you go ”there’s more to life than the economy, or the election or the mortgage.”
Oh, it works the other way too. There are plenty of sad stories and scary stories. And that little bit that you ingest stimulates your psyche into healing itself again. Brings the color back and makes you see this game of life from a different angle. And it gives you strength to face up to it and beat it. By feeding you little bits of the stuff that made you weak, you recognize it and become strong again.
I think all fiction has this role. Where it falls down, you just walk away saying “that movie sucked” or “that book was dumb”. It didn’t reach and reverberate on your human experience. But maybe it strikes a chord with someone else. The key is to strike that chord in the populace at large, then you become a millionaire or something. But you also communicate. You reach the masses and let them share your universe with you.
Now, I’m not saying that other things don’t do this. I am not saying that other things are not therapeutic. For certainly there are. I mean just talking to a friend who has had a similar experience can suddenly take out all the pain in a certain situation, just because you see that you are not alone, you see that someone else has had that problem too.
But I am saying that fiction does this, or should do this. I am saying that fiction has this role. And it allows you to sit back and see the world from a different viewpoint, if only for a few hours.