By Cindy Sproles
Walk up to a vending machine. Insert four quarters. Press the button. A soft drink drops into holder below. Instant gratification. But what happens when you follow those same steps and the prize doesn’t fall?
This is the life of a writer. We walk to our computer, insert all our information, print and the prize doesn’t drop. Our hard-birthed manuscript is rejected. Not once, but multiple times. There comes a point when we draw back our foot and kick the machine.
We live in a world of instant and self-gratification. We’ve been conditioned to expect instant reward whether our work warrants it or not. As a people, we’ve failed to learn patience or how to accept failure through encouraging the “everybody wins at the end of the race” theory. Though encouragement is great, rewarding loss with a temporary band-aid is not. It leads us to a selfish attitude and a greedy heart. I find this true, especially in my role as an acquisitions editor.
Writers send me their labor-intensive works and I appreciate all that goes into them. I know, I’m a writer too. I’m also a writer who gets rejections, so I relate to the frustration of putting my quarters in the machine and never getting the soft drink.
It concerns me that the immediate response from writers upon a rejection, is self-publication. And it concerns me on a number of levels. (I’m not a self-publishing hater. In fact there are certain things I feel self-publishing is the perfect venue for). However, it’s the attitude of writers that frightens me.
*The I Can’t Believe You Don’t Want My Work Writer – There’s always this one. The stunned writer who thinks their work is beyond anything Lucado could ever produce. They’ve never been published. Refuse to look at the work and consider improvement and they turn to self-publishing out of …well…having a chip on their shoulder.
*The Impatient Writer - This is the writer who runs the race and loses but they stand at the podium expecting their badge of participation. No one wants to publish my work NOW, and NOW is when it should be published.
*The Why Bother, I’ll Just Do It Myself Writer – This is the writer who feels publishing a book, regardless of the quality, is most important.
These attitudes concern me. Writing, like any profession, is tough. Sometimes landing the job was the simple idea of fate. Being in the right place at the right time. But most writers still experience rejection. Sometimes their work is just not right for the source. Sometimes they “write out-side of the box” and the industry hasn’t caught up. There’s tons of reasons why manuscripts are passed over. Money constraints, flooded markets, skill…to name a few.
When I’m forced to reject a writer’s work they throw these words into my face: “I’ll just self-publish.” My response – What’s so wrong with waiting? The right market could be just around the corner. The attitude of the writer is “I’d rather self-publish and have a book that sells 99 copies, rather than wait, edit, rewrite and find a home for the work that would sell thousands of copies. It’s all about the heart. And when our selfish desire to simply have a book on the shelf outweighs the quality and excellence of the work we want published, then something is wrong. Seriously wrong.
As you read this, I’m waiting. I’ve been waiting for four years for some of my work to publish. And though there are times I grow impatient and frustrated with the system, I have to look back at the call I have been given. The call to write…given to me by a higher power. One who guides my steps daily and who allows my work into the hands of those who can deliver the perfect method of getting the word out.
It’s hard to wait. But the times of waiting allow me to grow as a writer. They offer me the opportunity to hone the skill and revamp my attitude of gratitude. When I was a child, I entered a chalk drawing in an art show contest. Everyone in my family told me what a great picture I’d drawn. “It’s a sure winner.” But when the awards were announced, my picture didn’t place. I lost. Sure, I was a little disappointed but the truth of the matter is, I was able to see my drawing up against the ones who won. And there was a marked difference. No one gave me a prize “anyway.” Instead, my mom hugged me and said, “There’s next time Cin. And now you see how to make yours better.” At some point we have to learn to lose and work to improve.
I offer you the challenge to look deep within yourself and the work you do. Ask yourself the question – What’s so wrong with waiting? Then go to work.