Friday, April 20, 2012
Status: It has been a very long week, and I'm ready to just relax this weekend. And I'm pretty sure I'll finish reading Insurgent tonight, so I'm excited about that.
Number of queries sent: 29
Number of form rejections: 16
Number of detailed rejections: 1
Number of requests for additional materials: 2
"Don't let anyone, ever, make you feel like you don't deserve what you want. Go for it!" ~ Patrick Verona (played by Heath Ledger), 10 Things I Hate About You
I was thinking about this movie recently, and this quote popped into my head. Now, aside from the fact that the movie itself is just awesome, I really like this particular quote and, in general, the kind of attitude that Patrick has in the movie. Especially after he stops trying to be scary.
And yes, I know this quote is referring specifically to a girl, but I think the basic principle behind the statement can be applied across the board. For you other writers, I'm sure there have been naysayers in your past. People who told you that you were wasting your time, and to just move on. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone was just supportive?
This is something that someone (who, to this day, has never read a single word of anything I've ever written) told me when I was sixteen years old: "You're not really a writer. You have no idea what you're doing. Right now, your writing is 90% crap and 10% okay. And if you work hard at it your whole life, maybe--maybe--someday, you can be great like Stephen King. But I doubt it. So stop dicking around in a fucking notebook and do something useful with your time." This was more than a decade ago, so that's obviously not verbatim. Except the last sentence, which I remember like it was just said five minutes ago.
I'm not even going to get into the fact that telling a female to stop dicking around doesn't make a great deal of sense, or the fact that what I write is absolutely nothing like Stephen King's work, so comparing them doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either. (Admittedly, I don't even like Stephen King's books, but that's neither here nor there.)
No, what I want to talk about is the fact that this person thought he had a right to tell me what I can and can't do. Or, at the very least, what I should and shouldn't do. Honestly, the way he said it, and the condescending smile he wore while he was speaking, make me think that he thought he was doing me a favor. Saving me from the heartache of realizing that I'm just not good enough. That I'll never be good enough. That I am meant for mediocre things, and that I should just accept it and move on.
Um, bite me. (Isn't it a good thing I waited a decade to respond so that I would be older and wiser, and my response could be so very mature? :P) No one has the right to tell you, me, or anyone what their dream should be. Least of all someone who has no idea what he's talking about.
Then there are the people who do know what they're talking about. Say you are, in fact, trying to follow your dream. And, in the case of writers, you're putting your work out there. And agents, who do know what they're talking about because they've read your query or your partial or your full, are rejecting you. That's kind of the same thing. If you were good enough, they wouldn't be rejecting you, right?
Well, could be that your query letter just needs work, or you're not contacting the right agents. Or it could be that you're just not good enough yet. Meaning you just need to keep trying. I have no problem admitting that my first two books are downright terrible. That my third, while quite good, is seriously flawed. I've mentioned these things more than once on this blog. But you know what? I think my fourth book rocks. It's leaps and bounds better than anything I've written before. When I look back from where I am now to the earliest drafts of book number one (i.e., what I was writing when the quote above was said to me), I find it laughable. My first book is seriously that bad. But how did I get better? By writing more. The only way to become great at anything is to practice.
What if sixteen-year-old me had listened? What if I'd just given up and resigned myself to mediocrity? It breaks my heart to think that some people go through life not trying for that one thing they really want, because someone convinced them they just aren't good enough. Because even if you're not good enough yet, you'll never get there without trying.