*Sigh*. Another day, another rejection – this time in the form of a competition shortlist which unaccountably did not have my name on it. It’s very hard to keep going during these times: you feel a blow to the stomach like a sucker-punch which takes all the air out of your lungs. You start to feel a bit sick: then the inevitable thoughts come in. Why did I think that story was any good? Of course they didn’t choose it! What makes you think you’ll make a writer? And so on. But along with that there’s a stony stubbornness which won’t let me stop: and that’s a good thing – but right now it doesn’t feel good. Right now that stubbornness feels like your doom. It seems there’s no escape from your own nature – or fate, or whatever it is – and you start to feel like Sisyphus, condemned to push a rock up a mountain only to see it roll to the bottom. Every time.
Maybe I should write a story about that….
Because yes, in the end that is the only response; to turn your experiences into art. And thankfully nowadays the sucker-punch doesn’t last too long: I bounce back from it relatively quickly. But it’s very hard to find a place in a world which doesn’t seem to have any time for your work. My problem with stories is, I think, that they don’t have a strong plot. I’m not good with strong plots: my strengths lie in ideas and characters; moments in a life. Although I have had some success with surreal plots, such as Mem Mat, the one about the memory mattress which stores your actual memories. I have also – as is only fair – had some success with writing about trans issues: first with the Mslexia blog and before that, a story called DIVORK where a woman thinks her husband is having an affair because of a lip-print on a glass, only to discover that the lipstick is his.
As far as poetry goes I think my problem is that I write a lot of rhyming verse and there seems to be a mindset that serious poets write free verse. Hence I’ve had more success with comic verse. Interestingly this mirrors the process when I began to write: unable at first to take myself seriously as a poet, I started with parodies and comic rhymes, assuming like everyone else that the serious poet did not rhyme (or only sporadically) and that therefore I was not a Serious Poet. It took a long while for me to be persuaded otherwise – and now it seems to be taking a long while for publishers to be persuaded, too.
So here’s the rub: do you carry on doing what you do even though no-one seems to like it, or do you try to alter what you do to fit in?
Answers below please…