Shoebox Writing

“You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.” – Isaac Asimov

To me, there are two main sorts of writers. Shoebox Writers write, but never show it to anyone. Authors write, send it out, get it back (more often than not), polish, send it out again. They just keep sending it out.

No shame in being a Shoebox Writer. It doesn’t make you less of a writer if nobody sees it but you. If you enjoy it, it’s a respectable way to spend your free time and less messy than a lot of things people do for recreation.

But if you want to be published, you’re going to have to get it out there. Some people will not get it. Some will not like it. A few will hate it. But the equations also work the other way. Some will get it. Some will like it. A few will love it. If you have any talent, you find your tribe.

One rejection, even a hundred, isn’t a statistically representative sample, so don’t get a few rejections and quit. Not if this is important to you.

If you do get a lot of rejections, look to see if any of them contain some useful feedback. “I didn’t like it” is not useful. Some will attempt to salve their own feeling of inadequacy by trashing you and what you do (ignore them — they’re jerks). But some people will, in the spirit of helping you attempt to climb your mountain, offer you considered, thoughtful feedback. And others will get it, and like it. If they get a chance to see it.

Think of it as diamonds lost in a dumpster. It’s your job to put on your gloves and find them. Get your stuff out there so that people who will like it get the chance. Thank the people who offer constructive criticism, and those who offer encouragement and support. There’s no getting just one side of that coin. No way to find your tribe without getting negative feedback.

If you can’t, if you just can’t bear negative feedback and it’s just to painful to hear that someone doesn’t love your baby as much as you do, be a happy Shoebox Writer. Write as your hobby, because you love it.

As Mark reminds me, “There’s nothing that 100% of people love.” There are popular books I didn’t enjoy, not for any reason that has to do with quality. They just didn’t reach me. They aren’t talking to me, and that’s okay — not everything has to be for me.

But some things are for me. And there are people who get my writing and like it. A few who love it. I’m searching for more. Hoping one is an agent. But meantime, my gloves are on and I’m searching.

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