Today, I thought I’d focus on one of the biggest blocks to a struggling writer: rejection.
Rejection feels awful to anyone, whether it arrives in one’s personal or professional life, but it presents a double-whammy for a writer, perhaps because it automatically hits on both the personal and professional level.
Hard for anyone to swallow, it is an especially stony lump for someone who regularly focuses on “voice.”
It doesn’t help much to hear about the zillions of rejection letters received by famous writers.
For one thing, those famous writers are not you (and they were eventually famous.)
For another, writing is hard work; it takes time and has significant opportunity costs. While success/acknowledgement may not make the work fundamentally easier, it does seem to offer the struggling writer more time to write. It also offers a channel, a place and encouragement for “flow.” And a sense of respect. It can be easy to feel stopped up without those things.
What to do?
I am reminded of a yoga teacher who talked about the distinction between the sanskrit terms “bhava” and “bhavana.” He described Bhava as a state of spiritual ecstasy; bhavana as the cultivation of spirituality, the actual practices of devotion.
The fact is, he said, that you cannot force bhava–you can’t even be sure whether spiritual practice or any particular effort will induce it. But, while you are waiting and hoping (uncertainly) for enlightenment, you can at least go through some set of motions. You can, in other words, cultivate a discipline that feels like the groundwork for ecstasy, even understanding the quantum leap between discipline and ecstasy, and in that practice, you can, perhaps, achieve at least a certain contentment.
So (I tell myself), you cannot force success in the writing world, no matter how hard you work and scheme and (literally) plot.
But you can take steps to grant yourself some of the benefits you think that success would give.
More time? To the extent practicable, allow yourself to take that time.
A channel? At least get a writing-minded friend.
Respect is harder to come by, but at least try to respect yourself enough to finish what you begin.
Most importantly, keep in mind what started you writing to begin with; that you enjoy saying things. In print.