Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Quality of Light

13th January 2013

I am going to try and write this entry on my new IPad, but judging how long it has taken me to write this much, I may not succeed.  John Steinbeck in the journals he wrote while he was penning his novels would often wax lyrical about a new pen in his possession, and I can appreciate how important a writer's tools are. I suppose it's that you don't want to have to be thinking about the particular roll of a ball-point pen or an awkward keypad when you're composing: "Cannery Row in Monetrey is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a....damn it...a quality of light...this pen is also a stink."
The Ipad is to give me something to write assignments on, like this blog, when I am away, but why Apple couldn't have just included directional arrows on the keyboard is anyone's guess. If I try to move the cursor with my finger, as prescribed, it goes anywhere but where I want it, and I don't have particularly big fingertips. Anyway, I can see I will have to break down and buy a proper keyboard, which only goes to show what an old fogey I am when it comes to computers. 
Bill Bryson describes how one day at his new computer he watched in horror as his cursor ate his words pacman-like as he tried to type in more. This happened to me more than once, until I realised I had inadvertently hit the "Insert" button.  (Half of this last sentence just disappeared of its own accord, so I am going to have to abandon ship and go to my regular computer...but now I can't find the "Save" button...damn, this contraption is a stink, and not a particularly good quality of light...)
Back at my desktop, I couldn't retrieve what I wrote on the Ipad, so had to write it all over again. Yes, I know it's just me. I have a similar problem with keys.
At any rate, what this blog was supposed to be about was not fearing rejection. Here I am a hypocrite, because rejection to me is like a new computer - what else is there to do but fear it? Barbara Kingsolver says that when you get a rejection letter, you should think of it as an envelope adressed to "The editor who can appreciate my work" - it's just that it didn't reach its destination. Yeah, right. Through the blurr of tears, it just looks like a form letter with a few scratched remarks about your book not being right for their "list." I always want to shout, "What bloody list? Your shopping list?"
But there are more constructive ways to approach the rejection letter, and history proves this. Last year, I went to hear Kathryn Stockett, author of "the Help," whose book (a best seller and Oscar-nominated film)was rejected sixty times. I have friends who keep their rejection letters (line their bathroom walls with them) and I did for a while, too, but that bulging brown 8" by 11"envelope just sat on my dresser emanting bad energy, and I decided to toss it one day. I have never looked back.
Robert Pirsig, who wrote a cult book of my youth, "Zen Buddhism and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," had 121 rejections before it was picked up by a small publishing house and went on to be a best-seller. I loved that book when I was at university and brought all kinds of disdain from my professors for quoting it in philosophy papers.
Moving on, Audrey Niffenegger got 25 rejection letters for "The Time Traveller's Wife," again finally going to a small publishing house. Harry Potter was turned down by twelve publishing houses, for goodness' sake! I, like every once-rejected novelist, revel in the groans and gnashing of teeth that must have come out of those literary agent's offices when that book took wings and shot off into the literary stratosphere.
Louisa May Alcott's father ws told by the editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine, "Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching: she can never succeed as a writer."  She told her father to tell Mister Big Shot, "I will succeed as a writer, and I shall write for the Atlantic." And she did. And she wrote "Little Women." End of story.
The point is, rejection letters knock you for six, but you have to have some of that Alcott grit. You can lie in the mud for a while, but you have to get up again and know one day you'll write for the Atlantic.

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