31 May 2012

Rejection. How do you handle it? How does anyone handle it? When someone hands back to you something you spent months writing and tells you it's not good enough, what do you do to keep from breaking?
It started with a question and turned into a discussion; how can a writer not take it personally when something they've spent the better part of a year working on is met with frustrating rejection? After relying on friends and family to edit and critique, you take a deep breath and send it out, only to get either an email or snail mail with the words, “Sorry. Not for us.” When it happens over and over, it beats you down and makes you question everything.

The problem, as I was seeing it, is that too many of those involved in the discussion were taking those rejections as personal criticism. The first rejection stings, the second burns, the third is like a knife wound. All that pain accumulates and feels like the world is telling you that you suck and you should stop writing. It was writers commiserating with writers, a few of whom had been at it long enough to really understand.

It's not personal. Those rejection letters aren't an attack on a writer's personal worth; they're simply notice that the work submitted was not something the publisher could use at that time. It wasn't the right fit. Maybe the timing was off. True, the letter might also mean that the manuscript was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, that it made little sense, and that it was poorly written, but it's not a personal indictment. It just is what it is.

Have you ever watched a movie that fell just a bit short, and left the theater thinking that it could have been so much better—great, even—if only one or two things had been changed? That it might have had a chance at a best picture award if the lead had been played by someone other than That Big Name Actor?

That Big Name Actor is really good, but if you close your eyes and picture That Other Guy in the role, it makes more sense. It fits better. The delivery of lines, the innate facial ticks, all the little nuances that That Other Guy could have brought to the table would have made all the difference.

The truth of that doesn't change the fact that That Big Name Actor is incredibly talented and you'd probably pay to see him read out of the Yellow Pages; he just wasn't the perfect fit for that particular role. It's no different with writers and publishers; your story might be wonderful. It might be worthy of automatic inclusion on this year's The Best Of list in the literary circles. It just wasn't right for that particular magazine/book publisher/blog.

I got so many rejections a few years back that I just stopped writing. It was horrible; all those things I needed to write about were stuck living inside my head, and I guess I thought the only way to quiet the noise was to self-medicate. And that turned ugly.
Writers have long history of drug and alcohol abuse; hell, Stephen King admits he doesn't remember writing Cujo because of all the coke he was doing. I've read articles by writers who admit they find the use of marijuana helps them write past their inhibitions; I've read work by those same people that were written while not under the influence of anything, and it often kinda sucks.

I'm willing to bet, though, that of you gave those same people a drink and told them it had whatever their demon of choice was in it and then let them set about writing, they'd write as if they were under the influence.

You won't be a better writer under the influence; you just allow yourself to be less inhibited. And you won't quiet the noise in your head, either. If you really want to quiet it, then sit down and write. Let the noise out and pour in onto virtual paper. Give yourself permission to be who you are, even in the face of more rejection letters than you ever thought possible.

All those rejections don't make you less of a writer. You write because that's what you are. You don't need to wait for the roar to dull, for the drugs to kick in; you don't need to write for an audience. You just need to write—start a blog, keep a journal, write fan fiction, write truly horrible genre fiction for the shits and grins. No one ever has to see it, but that noise will be less painful if you keep at it and don't try to smother it.

Yeah, the rejections sting. They sting because it matters to you. But it's not personal, and getting enough of them to insulate your house isn't reason enough to stop writing.

Write to hone your craft, and write to keep your sanity.

It's not just about writers, either. Change that to just about anything. Photography, dance, acting.

Become one with your camera, show your pictures online.

Choreograph your own dance; record it and show it on You Tube.

Sink your teeth into community theater, take the role offered even if it's not the one you want.

You're still shooting pictures, still sharing your grace with the world, still shedding your own skin and taking on someone else's.

But how does one handle the rejection? You just do. You suck it up and move on and try to remember that it's part of a business and not an indictment against your talent or yourself. In college one of my English professors said that until you get a rejection, you're not a “real” writer—and within a year or two we'd all be consummate professionals, with enough of them to be the root cause of the death of an acre or two of forest.

He was a writer who sold his work consistently...and who shared his many weekly rejection letters with the class.

I doubt he enjoyed getting them, but he'd learned to shrug them off.

In the last ten years or so I've been a part of a dozen variations of the same discussion. I would imagine that in the coming decade, I'll be part of it over and over again.

The answers don't really change, though.

Just keep at it.

It really is that simple.


28 May 2012

Three year old kid running down the aisle in Walmart, leaps into the air and comes down hard on his feet as if he were jumping into a puddle, yells out I AM THE COCONUT! FEAR ME!, then turns around and runs back to his mother.

Yep, I was quaking in my shoes.


25 May 2012

Yesterday was puzzling. Not brain-busting puzzling, but more like, a People, What the Frack? puzzling. On the first instance, I'm not sure if it's an indictment against the overall honesty of people in general, an indictment of the education system, or...what. The second...well, that woman was just a walking douche.

The fridge was near empty yesterday, so after the Spouse Thingy got up and had some time to be mostly coherent, we went grocery shopping. No, I do not just go and do this by myself. If there is torture to be had in the grocery aisles of Walmart, I am totally going to inflict it on him as well. I hate grocery shopping; I have no issues with sharing the pain.

We loaded a cart, specifically did not go through the self check out line because people who do that with full carts...those people suck. We waited in a cashiered line, the girl working rang everything up, and we paid. In cash. We still had money on us from going to Reno and neither of us feels especially comfortable walking around with that much cash, so why the hell not use it instead of a debit card?

I handed over $215 to cover a $212+change purchase, she counted it out, and then fished into the cash register or change, giving me back $7 + change.

Now, we started to walk off, but the little bells went off in both our heads, we looked at the receipt, and saw that she had added up our bills as $220.

No problem. I took the four steps back towards the cash register to tell her and to give back the $5 extra. The problem? She couldn't quite understand what I meant when I said, "I gave you two-fifteen, but you counted it as two-twenty...and I owe you five bucks."

She didn't quite get it. She was taking care of another customer and was distracted, so I didn't really think anything about it, but then she recited back the bills I had given her. Three 50s, three 20s, and a 5. Righto. That's 215. You gave me back five bucks too much.

I thought she had grasped it when she asked a manager for an audit...but then she started mumbling about the bills again and I got the impression she really didn't know what was happening. So I came right out and said, "I owe you five dollars. I don't want your till to come up short or for you to get in trouble over it."

The light bulb went off. This lady is giving money back, she doesn't want me to give her any.

I don't know how it played out, but I gave her the five bucks and told her if her till came up short, use it.

In some places, being that short will get your ass fired. It's just five bucks to me. But now I'm not sure if she really didn't grasp that I was returning the money and not asking for money back, or if she had a hard time believing someone would actually try to correct an error in their favor.

So really...are people that sucky that they walk off with money that's not theirs? Was it really bad math skills? Or is "I owe you five bucks" a difficult concept to digest? I dunno.

It's not even that five bucks is a small amount that I don't need. Thirty years ago, when we were broker than broke, a drive-through bank teller gave me $150 too much. That was life-changing money then it would have made a difference. But hell yes I gave it back. It wasn't mine. I've chased after people who have left behind 50 cents in the change cup at a register before. It's not the amount, it's the principle.

I don't get people who would think there are other options.

Granted, I've found money on the street before and kept it. We found a five dollar bill on the ground at a flea market in Utah once; who the hell do you give it back to when there are a thousand other people around, many of whom would claim it? When the Boy was six or so, I took him to Wendy's and the guy ahead of us dropped a money clip while he was picking up his tray. I didn't see it, but the Boy did...he never even thought twice about it, he grabbed it and ran to give it back to the guy. We didn't beat that into him--he just knew.

You do the right thing when you can.

And damn, I'm getting way off track here. Maybe.

I mostly forgot about it, and after we'd taken the groceries home and put them away, I needed to make another run, this time to Safeway, where they have much better fresh fruit. I grabbed about 6 things, then got into line behind a woman with a loaded cart. Ahead of her was another woman who had maybe 7 things, and she split them up, 5 food things she was paying for with an EBT card, two nonfood things she was paying for with cash.

No big deal.

Not until the woman ahead turned to me and said in a stage-type-whisper, "Those this will take for-ev-er."


Honestly, until she said that, I hadn't even noticed what the person ahead of us was doing. And even

"I'm not in a hurry and she's not hurting anyone..." That's all I could come up with at the time, though many other things have occurred to me since (and Susie McGavin had a golden reply on Facebook: "Do you mind if I go ahead of you? I have an EBT card, too, and the checkers like to group us together." Damn I wish I had thought of that....)

The thing is, I was standing there with just a few things. The woman ahead had just a few things. Little Miss Sunshine had a cart load...which she promptly abandoned as she hurried out the door, probably to find a pair of giant tweezers with which she could pick her panty wad out of her ass.

We both knew she didn't have an issue with time. She had an issue with someone using an EBT card.

People, we all pay taxes. There are things our tax dollars go to that I don't like, but I'm not naive enough to believe we necessarily should have a line-item say in what our money is spent on. Don't like the way it's spent, vote the spenders out of office. But food stamps? I have no problem with that. People are hungry, people need food, and this feeds some of them.

Hells bells, if you're using an EBT card I won't know it; how many people actually look hard enough at what appears to be someone else's debit card? And if you do, does it really matter?

I am fully aware that I have my own dooshbag moments, and as for making change...I have to count on my fingers. 

But there are some things about people that make me kinda sad. That it might be a shock for someone to do the right thing, and that there are people that judgmental...kinda sucks, actually.

Ya know who I really feel for? The poor kid who works at Safeway, who then had to take that woman's cart and out everything back.


23 May 2012

Just before, during, and after Mother's Day, I was battling a simple cold that left me wrapped in fatigue, plus the Boy had to work, so we put off doing anything. Then a few days ago he and I were texting, and he brought up that he had a few days off, so how about a family trip to Reno? It was mostly kidding, but I thought, why the hell not? The cats would be fine for one night, and his roommate could feed his dog one night.

I had to check with the Spouse Thingy, but I didn't think he had any other plans. Plus, the boy was paying for the rooms. Happy Mother's Day! Sweet.

So off to Reno we went yesterday morning. It's a three hour drive up the mountain, but the views once you get past Sacramento are pretty sweet, so it's not a horrible three hours. It's only awful if you have to pee and you realize you just passed the rest stop...not that I've had any experience with that in the past.

We got there around 1:30 and checked in, and then headed out to wander around and find food. One of the things I really wanted to see was just a couple streets over, so we headed there and I finally got to take a look at the National Bowling Stadium.

Don't laugh. I used to be a decent bowler with an average hovering around 160. I like bowling. I miss bowling. And I wanted to see a bowling alley with 78 active lanes.

It was impressive. And they had food there. So we ate and then went walking, mostly to see what there was to see, and what there was to see was a lot of slot machines and people gambling. After a while the Boy went off on his own, because he plays poker and we do not, so the Spouse Thingy and I wandered a while more, musing that the area has kind of gone downhill since we were last there. So many closed storefronts, the Fitzgerald Hotel and Casino is gone and the building is now used for rock climbing. Some of the older casinos have that ick factor practically painted on the walls. But the major hotel casinos are still there and look really good for their age, and we found a non-smoking slot area in the Silver Legacy, so we played there for a bit, where I seethed at the machines for being mean to me while they were nicer to the Spouse Thingy.

Seriously, they like him. He doesn't win big but he usually breaks even...I tend to lose a lot of money. was fun. We walked around 7 miles just wandering around to see what there was, stopping to play the occasional slot machine. One our way out, when I was sure I was done, I spotted something bright yellow and shiny, and had to go see. And once I saw, I had to take a chance.

The grand prize on a 2 cent slot machine...2012 BMW z4 convertible.

Thumper wanted it.

Thumper really wanted it.

Thumper wanted it enough to put $50 in the slot machine, even knowing the odds were a bazillion to one.

Thumper left disappointed.

But...there was booze to be had back at Harrah's, where we were staying. And it was really good booze, too. I had one of the smoothest Long Island Teas I've ever had, and a spiced rum & coke than damn near ripped a hole in my tongue it was so strong. It soothed the crushing feeling of not winning a long shot BMW.

Plus, I learned that I like spiced rum...

I blew through more money than I wanted to, but it was fun...and exhausting. The original plan had been to check out of the hotel this morning and then hang around for a couple of hours, but the drive there and then all the activity afterward knocked me on my ass. If checkout had been later, the guys could have bummed around while I curled up on the bed and snooze, but we had to be out by 11, and I honestly didn't think I could do much more than get in the passenger seat of the car for the ride home.

Usually, I drive. It's a control thing...I'm a horrible passenger and am stressed as hell when I'm not behind the wheel, but it would have been a bad idea for me to be in control of a Chevy hurtling down the mountain at 70 mph, so the Spouse Thingy drove. There's a side benefit to having to give up control of the car to someone get to see more stuff around you, and I-80 between Auburn and the outskirts of Reno is beautiful.

Next time...Vegas. I bet I can blow through a good chunk o'change there!

16 May 2012

Max, hard at work on his next book...


15 May 2012

Stuff That's Been Going On In The Last Couple Of Weeks
  • My Mom took a heard fall and it's been pretty serious. She suffered a brain stem bleed and was in ICU for a while, has had some issues that once she was out out her back in again, and now she's in rehab. It's still serious, she could use some continued Mojo and whatnot. She's been through enough in the last few years, between fighting through Lymphoma and losing my dad...she needs to catch a break.
  • I've spent the last week with my throat on fire and my head so full of goop that everything was spinning and my ears were popping. A little harder to hear than normal. I'm starting to feel better, though, so it's barely worth mentioning.
  • I am still tired enough that the Bay to Breakers isn't happening this weekend, at least not for me. I'm sure the other 20,000 people will still show up. I just can't see going into the city, spending the night, and fighting a crowd to walk uphill for over 7 miles when I'm so wrung out.
  • Before the cold knocked me on my asterisk the Boy went to Reno, so we got to go walk Butters. I think I'll rename him Sir Sniffs-A-Lot, because holy carp that dog likes to check everything out. And for a guy with short little legs, he's fast. Walk with him everyday and a person could get into decent shape.
  • Max, on the other hand, did not like how I smelled when we got home. Apparently, I smelled like betrayal.
  • My laptop crashed. Hundreds of cat pictures with funny captions...gone. I am in mourning.
  • Replaced the laptop.
  • Yeah...this is the excitement of my life. But still, if you're of a mind to, send my mom continued well wishes or Mojo or prayer. It would be nice if she recovered fully.
Also have been looking at a lot of Calvin and Hobbes, looking for the next tattoo...