Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mourning Time

First, let me apologize for not posting this yesterday (Monday). Hopefully, it’ll be the exception to the self-imposed rule.

Second, let me assure you this blog is not about death, but about rejection, about small failures.

Yesterday I learned that a short story I’d submitted to an Internet writing contest hadn’t won. It wasn’t an important contest to me, and I didn’t think I had much chance right from the start. But when I learned the story had lost, like many other times my writing has been rejected, I felt a letdown. Someone had put a pin in my balloon of hope.

The stoics among us---even my Inner Stoic---says, “The best thing to do is turn around and send it out somewhere else.” Which I fully intend to do, but not right away.

The words “my story lost” uses the same word as “I lost my grandmother X years ago.” However we explain the difference to ourselves, the word is the same and our minds hear it in a similarly way. Just as I took the time to mourn the “loss” of my grandmother, I think it’s important to take some time to mourn the loss of our works “losing” a contest, a judging for inclusion in an exhibit, the loss of a job opportunity we hoped for, the loss of an advertising account.

So how do we do it and move on? How do we get over it as quickly as possible so that we can send the story out again, or enter a photograph in a showing, or apply for the next job on our list?

Anyone reading this who knows me, can guess that I’m going to include the Right Brain in the process, as well as the Left.

I’ll share my process, and I hope all my readers will share theirs, also.

Rant and rave. (Right Brain) “Those stupid people! They don’t know good writing when they see it. Probably the dude’s brother won!” I allow this for about five minutes, no longer.

Calm myself down and remind myself about the contest specifics. (Left Brain) Often I realize in retrospect that maybe my story didn’t even fit their requirements. (In this particular case, although they said only a short reference of any kind to Australia or something Australian would suffice, all three winners wrote in Australian---which is a very different language than American, with references in every sentence, dialect, location, setting, etc.)

Next, I read the winning entries. (Left Brain) (I thought one was extremely well-written, although it was supposed to be a mystery and though it contained a crime, there was no mystery to it at all; the other two seemed to be different versions of the same story, written similarly, but bursting with Australianisms.)

Then I comfort myself with all that I’ve learned. (Right Brain)

I wait at least 24 hours, sometimes 48 hours, before revisiting my own story. Then I reread it, looking for ways to improve it---not for that contest but for its own sake. (Left and Right Brains working together)

Finally, it’s time to move on. Either send that story out again or put it aside and get to work on something else.

I’ve given myself time to vent, allowed my inner angst a little bit of space so it doesn’t have to take a whole lot when I’m not looking, I’ve learned something about contests (at least that one), read a good story, hopefully improved my own story, and moved on.

I’ll never know if my story wasn’t chosen because it wasn’t well-written, or because it didn’t have enough Australia in it. But now it doesn’t matter.

How do you deal with rejection and “loss” in your creative life? In striving for what you want even in the non-creative arenas?