Monday, February 16, 2009

When the Muse is Refused

We just got another one, one of those nasty notes sent as a comment, the crux of which states that we should just suck it up, don’t post any guidelines, just read, represent and shut the *&^% up. When we get something like this we imagine disgruntlement. A writer, red-wrinkled face, throwing a tantrum because he/she spent a year writing a novel and wasted yet another year trying to get it published to find that no one wants it.

Unfortunately, this is the nature of the writing life. All real writers know this, as do artists of all kinds. A person can work for months or years on something that just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. There are waiters in NYC who went to Juliard and haven’t been able to perform in the profession for which they trained. This also goes for all those songwriters and singers in Nashville and those models and actors in LA working in bars and cafes. The arts and all related muses are cruel masters sometimes, but those born under their rule would have it no other way. A lifetime of toil with little, if any, appreciation and a lot of people questioning your judgment. Until the big break comes, what do you do? Give up? Writers just keep writing. They can’t do anything else.

I think everyone in publishing should be given a magic wand so we could wave it over queries, partials and manuscripts we receive and fix all that’s wrong with them. I know my job would be easier, but even at that, it wouldn’t fix a problem that was brought on by the fact that everyone wants recognition and writing something seems the quickest way to get recognized. It’s not.

I wish disappointment could be assuaged by simply lashing out at something or someone. But all this does is to show those who receive a person’s wrath that you don’t understand the profession to which you aspire. Maybe you aren’t an artist or writer or performer, and maybe you just want the glory. In today’s society, everyone seems to want to their fifteen minutes of fame with no effort. Is it so we can be immortalized and worshiped forever? Is it about money and providing for loved ones after you’re gone? What is it then?

At WMLA, we never started this business with visions of undue glory. We wanted to work with books because that’s who we are. We were born this way, dammit. We know that nothing lasts forever, and that’s okay. Immortality is highly over-rated…just ask any vampire.

Heh heh heh.


Ann Victor said...

Lovely post. Perfectly describes the divine madness that comes with devotion to those cruel mistresses, the creative Muses.

Travis Erwin said...

Well said.

Just know there are lots of us aspiring writers who appreciate people in the business such as yourself that take the time to offer advice and wisdom via blogs, twitter and other interactive media.

I'm proud to say I've been rejected by the best agents in the biz but not one of those slips of paper or event he handful of phone call rejections has deterred me in my craft.

Nixy Valentine said...

One of the lessons I've learned is the difference between being disappointed and being discouraged. The former is natural when a query is rejected. The latter is the path to giveupitude. Sounds like the writer you're talking about slipped all the way through discouraged and into disgruntled and perhaps even all the way to distraught.

It takes me hours to send a query letter to one agent, because although I have a certain pitch I nearly always use for a project, I research them on websites and in books, I google them, I find out who they represent and what they like. I read their blogs and guidelines and THEN I write a query. I have no idea if it comes through to the recipient of the letter, but the point really is that I write to agents *I actually want to work with*, not just any-old-joe who reads my genre. So, yeah, it feels tougher when they say no. It's like the guy you want to take you to the prom, but he's ... wait no that's a little maudlin. It *is* like applying for a job and not getting it. It *feels* like getting dumped by the prom king... if we let ourselves lose perspective.

The most unfortunate part of your story is that publishing is a small town. Agents and edits know each other and talk to each other. (It's funny that this will be news to some people.) One can possibly get away with being rude once, but that would be lucky and require compassion on the part of the target. Making a habit of it helps seal future failures.

Scott Jensen said...

See that's your problem there. Your hearts are as cold and hard as stone. If you were still human, you'd have hanged yourself instead of blogged after getting that very perceptive letter from that wannabe author or, at the very least, begged him for forgiveness and offered to represent and treat him as your star client. But instead, the arrows of reason merely bounce off your dead souls and you look bothered for having been, as you see it, needlessly assaulted by the unwashed masses. Sadly, there is nothing that can be done for you now. All is lost. There is no hope. Woe and misery are all that awaits you. May the Flying Toaster In The Sky have mercy on your soul.

holodog said...

I've been quietly reading this blog since I first started testing the waters of literary representation awhile ago, and find it fascinating.

I am also eagerly awaiting my first rejection letter from you.

Ezra Caine said...

We all learn who we are on the school playground. You can't categorize a category, but you can make friends with the bully. Even when the bully gets rejected he still needs an outlet.
That is why half the writers in the world have bruised egos. Cowboys get back on the horse, hookers sometimes forget to pay their pimp, and junkies eventually relapse.
Writer and friend to writer alike must understand this aspect eleqouently reffered to as human behaviour. It's like the man typed writing is what we know, so that's what we will do.
The waiter in New York who took advanced Symphony and Orchestral music for viola doesn't stop playing just because he got promoted to host.
So, bare that cross, and I'll bear my arms. Not the kind with fingers. I fuckin' punched back when I got hit.

Annora Eksteen said...

For me it is a message as well as my creativity that I want to express. I do not have time to go to publishers, so I am going to do the self publishing thing again with my second novel. Mine.

I am selfish about my creative art. Don't want editors to change it.

It fulfills me deeply and for the first time in my life I believe in the gifts God gave me.

I found the last bit of The Curious Tale Of Benjamin Button written by F Acott Fitzgerald very ver very inspiring and I realise that it is only when I started to write, theat I've started to reaaly experience and live life to the full.