Friday, December 5, 2008

All In

Dear Sam,

Thanks for sending me "Craving Soul Food." I'm afraid it didn't work for me.


I apologize in advance for the breadth of this post...I was considering titling it "More Than You Ever Wanted to Know."

Above is the rejection letter I received for the story I'd mentioned in my previous post. I'd gotten rather used to rejection letters, but the last couple have cut unusually deep. I had a story at GUD for 130 days and was getting my hopes up too high. It'd been awhile since any good writing news, and I was starting to count on the acceptance.

-Radio edit - please excuse.

But the latest rejection sent me down the road of introspection. I mentioned my writing group before. It seems to me that any story they put their all into ends up rewarding them. For me, not so much. The logical conclusion is I suck. Nobody's ever accused me of being logical, though.

I've very seriously considered chucking the writing aspirations. I'm a decent husband and a very good father. I'm pretty good at my day job. I think without the constant distraction of writing, I could be great at all those things. And I'd be much less frustrated.

Just when I decided to take the leap, to quit cold turkey, I get a call from my dad. Over Thanksgiving, he'd watched my son for a day. Without prompting, Dad told me how Nick had boasted to him that "My dad's an author." While I dispute the claim somewhat, it's kind of a nice feeling to have your son bragging on you. The shoe's so often on the other foot, it caught me a little off-guard.

So. Now what?

I can't let my boy down, but I'm not going to go through the next few years on this emotional roller-coaster - affecting every aspect of my life when writing things don't go my way. But I can't look myself in the mirror without thinking "Damn, I'm a pretty man!" - Sorry bout that, I get distracted when I look in the mirror. I meant I can't look at myself and know I've tried my hardest.

I just don't feel I've really given writing a consistent, concentrated effort.

This post is me throwing down the gauntlet for (at?) myself. I'm all in until my next birthday on July 31 (cash is always a nice gift, btw). Perhaps things will be going well enough then that my goals can be modified, but something huge will have to occur.

What must happen before then:

My collection must come out, and the reviews better not completely suck. I don't need anymore justification of that logic thing I previously mentioned.

I must sell to a professional market.

I must finish my POS novel.

I have two interviews with established authors that I've promised to complete, and they must be completed.

Most importantly, if I look in the mirror that day, and after throwing myself the required kisses, know that I'm still not giving it the effort, then I quit. If I can't sustain a solid effort for eight months, it's time to turn my attention to other pursuits.

All in. Public humiliation is a great motivator.


Erik Smetana said...

All in indeed.

John Mantooth said...

In poker, sometimes the best move you can make is to go all in.

I think you'll never regret this decision, Sam.

Best of luck to you.

Kim Despins said...

YAY! The world would be a seriously sadder place if I didn't have your stories to read.

johnpeters said...

Good column/blog. I can definitely relate, especially about the job/father/husband thing and how writing is such a distraction to those (or is all of that a distraction to writing?) and the frustration with rejects and markets...

But Sam, man, DO NOT QUIT. Whether you meet those goals are not, don't quit, man. First, if you send out a dozen stories to pro markets, you may not have an answer by July 31, so don't quit over that (I've had a story out to Doorways since freaking MARCH).

And, you never, ever know what's around the corner. You quit on July 31, maybe the next story would have been the one.

You quit, and all the work you did up to that point will have gone for naught.

Don't quit, dude.

Kevin Anderson said...

Writing is this constant chase, while you pursue a goal, self doubt pursues you. Reading your post reminded me of the times (and there has been many) when my self doubt has caught up to me and taken me down, and almost every time I thought it was for the count. You’ve allowed your self doubt to catch up, and I know it feels crappy, but it will pass.

In the meantime - Kiss your beautiful wife, play with your kids, gather with friends, enjoy the holidays, drink to excess, and live to write another day.

Lou said...


I completely understand your frustration, but want to point out that you are AHEAD of me by quite a distance. How so, you ask?

Well, you've published. I have not. You've been requested to add to an anthology. Again, I have not.

Your POS novel is farther along than MY POS novel and I can guarantee that yours is much better than mine. Characterization, snappy dialogue, lack of pick the criterion and it beats MY loose collection of poorly-arranged letters by a long shot.

Don't quit.

Why? Because if you DO, you will have ruined writing for ME.

I consider you one of my writing heroes.


A Different Shade of Reason said...

Thanks all for the support. For those telling me not to quit, I appreciate it. But we're not at that point now.

The intent was to let all-ya'-all know that I'm going to give this my best effort. We won't talk quitting until August.

It's been a pretty good start, too. But I supose that's a story for one of these blog things.

Lou said...

From Steve L.:

Buck up, Sonny Boy. Nothing good is easy except touching yourself in that loving way. And you don't suck. In fact, it's always been your and Niki's ACTUAL writing (and the potential in the rest of us) that has inspired me to keep doin' this crazy thing, going to class even when I slow down for a year at a time. I could call you a puss for being so emotional about rejections, but I rarely-if-ever submit, so I'm the one wearing the granny panties. Your commitment and talent will make the world a creepier (better) place. The cover of your collection is in my screen saver, so every time I walk away from my desk, I'm reminded that you don't suck.

-Steve L.