A “this was very close” story rejection today got me kind of in a meditative mood, especially given the reflective nature of the New Yearish time of year, and I found myself facing something that I come back to a lot these days when successes are immediately followed by things not working out the way I want them to.
The thing is – and I’ve written about this before – I did have and do keep having this irrational idea that I’ll reach a point in my writing career (yeah, I think I can pretty much call this a career now, though I’ve been reluctant to) where everything will just start getting easy. Where the rejections will taper off. At first it was just getting published, then it was my first pro sale, then it was the first time I made it into Clarkesworld. Also when I signed the contract for my first novel. Right now it feels like when I get an agent. And none of this is true, but I can’t stop thinking it.
Here’s the nasty little secret about selling your fiction: It doesn’t get better. I mean, it does. You build a name, you build a circle of friend-colleagues, you start making more serious bank. For the last couple of years I’ve made enough writing to pay income taxes on it and that feels kind of cool, even if it’s not that high a threshold. But it’s still frustrating as fuck, trying to write things that are unsucky enough to make people pay you for them. And it doesn’t matter how many acceptances you get; the rejections still hurt. Every single one of them. You get them and for a few hours you want to just toss everything into the sea and give up forever.
At least I do. Then I drink and take a bath and kill some things on a TV screen and get back to work, and it’s usually fine in the end. I’m given to understand that this is common.
This is only one of the many reasons why – though I agree that it’s important to recognize that everyone has a different process and should do what works for them – I think anyone who wants to do this seriously really needs to learn how to sit down and do it even when you really don’t feel like it, even when it’s hard and frustrating. I have said things to this effect many times before, and there’s an excellent reason for it: When I figured it out it changed my fucking life. Get used to hard and frustrating, because the truth is that it’s always going to be hard and frustrating, at least to some degree. There is no point at which that shit goes away for good, Highness, and anyone who says differently is selling something.
But maybe it’s also good in a way to believe, at least a little bit, that over the next hill everything will be awesome forever. It’s additional motivation. Sometimes it’s even true for a while.
In the meantime, back to work.