Rejection, Dejection, Commendation, and Inspiration

Quite a ride on the Aspiring Writers’ Emotional Tilt-A-Whirl yesterday. I checked my email just before leaving for work to find that my second submission to a publisher has been swiftly rejected. Nothing heartbreaking or earth shattering there; to be honest, I’m not completely surprised. The novella was not necessarily the best fit for the publisher. Despite my twisted nature, this story is more of a conventional, straight-ahead crime story, and was probably not “dark” enough for them. That’s okay, I will continue submitting. That being said, I was able to express exactly how I felt upon receiving the news with two simple words:

Well, shit.

Even though I may not have been surprised, it was still a crappy way to start the day. I spent the drive to work wondering if there was anything I overlooked in regards to the plot or characters. After thinking it over, I still feel pretty confident that it’s a solid piece of work. I’ll take the advice of an excellent fellow writer whose opinion I trust and continue to submit at least a few more times before I let the succubus of self-doubt start to creep back in.

At 10am, however, I was still fighting off gloom and grumpiness when I took my morning break and checked my email again – because, you know, the publisher may have changed their mind. What I found instead was a message from Readwave, the Pinterest-type website for writers and readers where I’ve been publishing most of my short stories, telling me that my latest short story, Blue Skies, was chosen as a Staff Pick, and was promptly getting moved to the site’s front page. What good news! It may not have been ‘hey, we love this 28,000 word novella you spent hours and hours writing and editing’ good, but it still brightened my day considerably. After feeling a bit low for a couple hours, here was confirmation I had really been needing for a while – to know my writing doesn’t suck.

I’ve gotten plenty of wonderful words of encouragement here on the blog, and I’m extremely grateful for all the comments, especially on the infamous Freshly Pressed post; it’s really boosted my confidence, which is an area where I’m severely deficient. The thing is, my fiction is still largely unread at this point. Beta readers are damn hard to come by, and so I just keep on truckin’ with only my own opinion to go on. So to finally get a piece of mine recognized as being un-sucky felt pretty nice (shameless self-promotion: it’s only 400 words, a mere three-minute read. If you haven’t already done so, check it out here. Go on, I’ll wait.).

The final thing that’s been going on with me over the past few days is inspiration. You see, all the writing I’ve been doing over the past year and a half, these two novellas and the (will it or won’t it turn out to be a) novel I’m working on are all ideas that have been in my head for a long time. Several years, actually. I began to worry once I got them all written I wouldn’t have another single good idea. I managed to crank a few short stories out of thin air, but nothing else had lit a spark in this tar pit I call a brain. Until, that is, something did.

If I told you exactly what lit the spark it would sound like the corniest thing you’ve ever heard (oh, screw it, I’ll tell you-it was the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town). But it stuck, and within ten minutes I had ideas bouncing around and colliding with each other like coked-out pinballs. This is the first time since I started writing again that I’ve had an honest to goodness moment of inspiration, and it feels invigorating. I can’t outline and research fast enough; I just want to start writing the damn thing. Which brings me to a bit of a problem. I have a rough draft in need of some serious TLC, and I don’t want to just chuck it aside for something new. I’ll have to judiciously divide my time, writing during the week when I only have limited time, and editing and rewriting on weekends when I have a little more time to focus and pay more attention to detail.

One last fairly random item: I’m planning on going on a ride along with the local Police Department in the very-near future. This new Big Idea I got involves police procedure to a degree I’ve never written about before, mostly because I’m ignorant to it all. I figured what better way to learn than to get in the patrol car and hit the streets with the real deal. Has anyone done this before? I was planning on riding with one of my good friends when I lived in California, but things got in the way and it never happened. If it’s interesting at all I’m sure I’ll make a post out of it.

In the meantime, I’m going to get some rainy day weekend sleep (is there any better kind?) and get busy writing. Feel free to share your moments of pure creative inspiration, your own highs and lows on the emotional tilt-a-whirl, or your experiences with the police (good or bad) in the comments below.

Writing – I’m a Poor Swimmer

I use the expression I ‘jumped’ back into writing, but it was really anything but a jump. I got back into writing the same way I get into a cold-ass swimming pool (my wife will appreciate this analogy more than anyone else). I know I want to go swimming, but it’s cold. So Cold.

So, I go in up to my knees.  God, it’s cold. I go a little deeper, up to my thighs. Jumpin’ Jesus, it’s cold! Then I get a little more brave, go on in past a certain sensitive area, and on up to my waist.

cold

At that point, it’s basically the point of no return. I still creep my way in, but the hardest part is over. Before long I’m up to my neck, until I finally submerge and acclimate to the water.

I remembered enjoying writing. A lot. But it was cold (so to speak). So I started slow.  I started my novella, then realized I forgot how hard (cold) it was. So I stopped for awhile, enjoying the knee-high level I was at. I began to slowly find things that encouraged me to go on in a little deeper. So I went back and wrote some more, then stopped again; up to my thighs. Then a whole slew of things happened that made me realize I needed to quit being such a freakin’ baby and take the plunge.

So, I went in up to my neck.

Here’s the thing : I am a terrible swimmer. I hesitate to even say that I actually know how to swim. But once I’m in the pool, I love it. It’s hard to get me out. I walk to the middle of the pool, where the water is up to my chin but my feet are still on the floor of the pool, and I just chill there. I’ll splash around, float on a pool noodle, all that, but I love just being in that middle ground. If I drift too far into the  deep end without realizing it, I have a small moment of panic. I know I’m fine, but my instinct is to freak the hell out because I know how poorly I swim.

I’ve almost reached that point with my writing. I took the plunge, and started working on my novella every day. I consider that about waist high. That was nice. Then, I finished it, which was awesome. As I began revising and editing, I started writing another one. I was just about right where I wanted to be; up to my neck, but with my feet on solid footing. I finished the second one before I finished revising the first one, so then I had two to edit. But I didn’t want to stop writing, so I started another, which is what I’m working on now.

I’m in that place, a couple steps past my comfort zone, where I have to struggle to keep my composure. Hopefully, it won’t last too much longer; I’m almost ready to submit novella # 1 (I swear this time), then I’ll just have to edit # 2 while I keep writing #3.

So far so good; but before long somebody may need to throw me a pool noodle.

noodle

…Or is it?

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change your perspective. Sometimes it just takes three little words.

I was just sort of brainstorming about my work in progress today, trying to figure out which way the story was going to turn at one point. I thought of something pretty out there, and then I thought, ‘oh, I can’t do that, that’s crazy.’ Then I thought, ‘or is it?’

Just allowing myself the glimpse of a possibility that maybe there was something to that thought, instead of just shutting it out altogether, made me think of what I was doing in a different way. Suddenly, I had a wave of ideas that spun off from the crazy idea I’d just subconsciously tried to stomp on seconds earlier.

I’m a cynical person by nature, and I’ve started to realize while there’s some comfort in cynicism, it can sometimes stunt originality and creativity. Have you ever had an idea, and then you think, ‘That’s lame. That’s impossible, I can’t do that.’ Sometimes I wonder if what that means is ‘That’s really original. I’ve never seen/heard that before.’ Taking a second to just recognize an idea for what it is, and honestly consider it from all sides before casting it aside is extremely helpful for coming up with new ideas and creating. Or is it?

I don’t know, but for the time being, it’s working for me.

I have to mention where I got this notion of giving ideas a chance from. Kyle Cease is a stand-up comedian turned motivational speaker (which sounds corny, I know), but he doesn’t come across like one of those yahoos you see on infomercials. Some of what he says is still a little too cheesy for me (like I said, cynical), but when he talks about creating new ideas, it’s pretty useful. I’m sure not everyone would find him that enlightening, but if you have a few minutes to spare sometime, check out one of his many Youtube videos or  his website.