To be clear, I’m not talking faith in the theological sense because that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not in the business of cracking open today. I’m talking faith and writing…or faith in writing. (Or is it faith to write?)
I think everyone is pretty much on board with the belief that art is a means of self-expression, and I think all artists can agree that if we didn’t do art we’d probably die. But I think there are also people who would agree that art in general is an unappreciative profession. To me, art is very much a “give” profession. Artists get very little back. As artists, our hope is to share everything—our emotions, our thoughts, our passions, our love, our worlds, our “babies,” as we so affectionately call our creations,—with complete strangers in hopes of sparking something in them, reaching them somehow. But at the same time, we are leaving our work and ourselves open to rejection, and in some cases a lot of pain comes along with that.
I’ve realized that one of the hardest things to do is to wake up in the morning and keep writing. (You can apply the same idea to anything you do, or simply living…Hell, I think we’ve all had our share of that.) You can find tons of inspirational quotes by your favorite author telling you how hard it is to keep writing, but how you must because if you’re really meant to write then you will keep doing it.
Quotes are all well and good, but when it comes down to it, it’s your call if you keep going. Yeah, encouragement is helpful, but it’s up to you whether you throw in the towel. Angels can sing gumdrop-y promises in your ear and demons can whisper shadowy doubts in the other, but every decision lies in your gut. And so if you’re like me, you roll out of bed, cursing and grumbling and looking like you got in a fight with a couple Harley riders and their Rottweilers, even though you’ve really just been fighting with yourself because you really are just as much of a determined, solitary jackass that your mother thinks you took after your father and turned out to be.
But I’ve recently noticed this is hard for people “on the outside” to see.
I don’t remember to how many magazines, journals and publishing houses I’ve sent my work. I don’t remember how many rejection letters I’ve gotten back, but I know how it feels when I get them.
And I think I look like this when I get them:
It sucks, and I always tend to wallow in my own shallow little puddles of alcohol and shame, but I eventually get over it.
But I suppose most people think it’s more like this:
I suppose because it is my passion and I’ve done this for so long and am determined? So when I get rejected they think I am (or should be?) more upset?
Nobody likes being rejected. It sucks. I might be damn-near miserable for a few hours (or days if I had my eyes full of stars for something) after I get rejected, but I get up again. And that’s what separates the men from the boys, so to speak.
When I used to be on this online art community site, I remember a fellow writer told me she got 100 rejection letters and then “gave up.” What? You gave up? Preposterous! That was unfathomable. Part of me felt bad for her because 1) she didn’t believe in herself enough to keep going and 2) I just don’t like to see people give up. But at the same time, a little voice in my head yelled, “What the hell is wrong with you?! Get up! Keep going!” But I didn’t say that, and I realized how tiny of a line separates writers (or artists in general): the ones who get up and ones who don’t.
So if your face is sore from being bitch-slapped with 15 red “REJECTED” slips in a row, but you still get out of your self-made gutter and wipe the snot off your nose to write or send out your work again because maybe, just maybe, the words you bleed will make someone out there shiver because that’s all you ever wanted: to make someone feel something, even though you know there’s the very real possibility you’re just gonna go through all that rejection again, well then, congratulations, pal, you’re gonna fucking make it.
That’s called faith.
It’s not someone holding my hand; it’s not someone telling me I’m gonna be “awesome someday;” or that my mother always said I talk like a writer (What does that even mean? And how does a writer talk? I don’t know, but I was always pretty sure it probably wasn’t like me.); and it sure isn’t debating if I should give up after Rejection Letter #100. It’s feeling like shit when I read “Sorry, this didn’t work for us,” but still sending out my work because I think it is and I am good enough. It’s waking up in the middle of the night and writing a poem or part of a short story or novel even though the only person who might ever like it is me. Because it doesn’t matter if I get 100,000 rejection letters, or if I never get published; I will keep writing because it is what I’m meant to do.
If you can say that, then you’re probably meant to be a writer and don’t really need me or anybody else to tell you.
Faith. Y’know? It’s what George Michael said.