Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Spring Rains By Suzanne Y. Cordatos
Did you make any writing resolutions this past New Year? How are they going?
In January, my writing friend set ambitious goals: Submit work more often. Research and query agents. Enter contests. Query. Revise. Again. And Again. I meet with this writing friend every week for a hearty breakfast of eggs, critiques, conversation, inspiration and motivation. (BTW, if you haven’t yet found a writing friend, it is easier than you might think. Join a formal association, or simply make a few public comments that you “are a writer”. Fellow writing souls will emerge from the woodwork.)
In March, her effort paid off big-time. Her manuscript was in the hands of agents and contest judges, right on schedule. Even better, the novel we had labored over for two years (longer for her) was placed among the top four finalists of a contest. Her work would be read by a top NYC publishing house! The top finalist would be handed a gold-plated book contract! Yippee! Right? Not so fast.
Like spring rains, however, rejections started pouring down on her good efforts and optimistic spirits. For the past few weeks, her writing pen has barely slogged across the page. Have you ever felt that way? Why do we writers torture ourselves like this? Her self-torture: If she hadn’t submitted more, she’d be swimming happily right now in her pool of dreams, a pool deep with fantasy contracts and book signings.
Why do you bother to write? I keep trying because stories have shaped my sense of empathy, my understanding of the human condition; fiction binds us together as people of a planet who share the human experience: its dreams, sadness, and hopes. Stories help create empathy for others and transport us out of the mundane.
Find out why by reading some of your favorite old classics. Those treasured, dog-eared books you dragged around? The ones whose characters felt more like friends than the kids down the street? I found myself—the values/views/themes/beliefs I hold dear to my heart—in specific sentences of those books. Single lines that rang true. Bits of dialogue. Unforgettable settings. Characters who triumphed over obstacles.
The joy of watching flowers bloom and helping others reach their potential? It’s behind the locked door of The Secret Garden. The value of a good cry? Who didn’t cry over the beauty of life and self-sacrifice in Charlotte’s Web? A sense of adventure and the belief that small people can make a big difference in the world? Just ask Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. The deep sense that Mom cares no matter how bad I am? It’s in the bowl of soup that Max’s mom left at the end of Where the Wild Things Are. After Max’s misadventures, the soup was still hot.
Writers make a difference. Published or not. I sat across a conference lunch table from Newberry Award writer Jerry Spinelli a few years ago and heard about a manuscript he still keeps tucked away – a novel the editors don't care to publish. What if he had stopped writing when they said no to that first try? Whatever is on your heart that needs to be said to the world—it matters! Whatever keeps pushing the keys on your keyboard, the words that speak to your heart, it really does matter.
What inspires you to keep writing through rejection?