How to Deal With Rejections

It occurs to me, following the success of my ‘Top Tips for Blogging’ post a while back:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/my-seven-tips-for-better-blogging/

that I should do a ‘top tips on surviving rejections’ post.  After all, I’ve had my fair share of them and although unlike writers in the past I can’t paper my room with rejection slips because they come by email, I can as it were paper this blog with advice about how to deal with them.

So here are my top tips on surviving rejection.

  1.  It happens to everyone.  If you’re feeling down, look at this sample of rejections received by successful and established writers and remember that rejection is not necessarily a judgement on your writing, merely on its suitability for the outlet to which you submitted it – or, if you want to be pedantic, on that person’s opinion of its suitability (look at this link to 17 famous authors and their rejections: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections)                                                                                                                                     
  2. It hurts.  There’s no way round this that I know of: you’re going to feel bad for a day or two, maybe longer; so use your support networks.  Tell family and friends, share with online writing groups.  If you haven’t joined any there are loads out there and my favourite is the Insecure Writers’ Support Group (ISWG) on Facebook, who are very supportive and encouraging.                                                         
  3. Do something to make yourself feel better.  Write (but don’t send!) an angry or humorous email to the editor who rejected you, as I did in yesterday’s post.  If you really want to, send the rejected item somewhere else – but I recommend letting it lie for a while and in the meantime doing something restful and enjoyable.  Go for a walk, watch a film, read something amusing or absorbing that is quite different from your own work (so you don’t compare) and realise that you will feel shitty for a while.                                                                                                 
  4. Don’t allow the negative thoughts and/or feedback to define you.  I had a comment a while back on my poetry which really rocked me on my heels.  I thought about it for a while – then I decided that they were wrong.  But even if they were right it doesn’t mean that I have no talent or that I should give up.  After all a rejection is just one person’s opinion.                                                                                                 
  5. When you’re feeling better, pick up your pen/tablet/laptop again and keep going.  There’s only one sure way to fail and that is to give up.  So don’t give up!

I’d like to hear your top tips too – please add them in the comments

Kirk out

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Nominative Determinism, Psycho-Geography (Again) and a Poet Discovered

I have discovered a poet.  She was a Victorian, her name was Joanna Baillie and I had never heard of her; obviously a great omission as her work has a toughness generally absent from female poets of her time, with the exception of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I shall say more when I know her better.

But Joanna Baillie was clearly not an example of nominative determinism: I don’t know where the name Baillie originates from (it may be a cognate of bailiff or something similar, perhaps I’ll look it up*) but Joanna Bard might be more appropriate, especially since as a playwright she was compared in her time to Shakespeare.  Nominative determinism crops up far more than you’d think:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_determinism

How often have you come across someone whose name quite inexplicably describes their job?  Like, say, Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the flushing toilet; or, to give a more recent example, Usain Bolt, until recently the fastest runner in the world?  How does this happen?

Historically it’s easy to see how, given that surnames were likely to indicate a person’s occupation; so, for example, you may be genetically predisposed to become a baker, a butcher or a chandler because, if that’s your name it means that somewhere in history, that’s what your family did.  (I’m not sure what to make of mine, incidentally, since we don’t seem to have a predisposition to go grey early in my family.)  Another explanation is that we may be drawn to occupations which reflect our name through a sort of unconscious egoism, as suggested here:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2018/may/02/nominative-determinism-who-has-the-best-name-in-running

What examples of nominative determinism have you found?  I’m sure there are some corkers out there.

And back to psycho-geography which, as I’m sure you recall, is the way in which the landscape can reflect an inner state.  This is evident in works such as Wuthering Heights (incidentally how many people have the name Bronte?) and much of Dickens’ urban landscapes reflect the turmoil and oppression of his characters’ lives.  It is also in Joyce’s Dublin, Rankin’s Edinburgh and, if you want to see it that way, Dante’s Inferno.  Which brings us neatly back to spirals and to the novel I have once more picked up, determined to finish it by the end of November.  Of course by ‘finish’ I mean ‘complete a first draft’ – which will of course be rough, incomplete and awful.  But as I was decorating it occurred to me that writing is like painting a wall.  First you clean and prepare; then you put the first coat on.  You stand back.  God, that’s awful, you think.  What a mess.  And it’s true – the old paint shows through, the edges are rough and you can’t believe it’ll ever look like it did in your mind.  But you persevere because you realise that this is just the first coat – and once the edges are neatened with a fine brush and more coats have been applied and everything cleaned up, it’ll look much better.  Of course writing is not that simple: would that it were! (that phrase always reminds me of Robert Robinson.  Not a case of nominative determinism).  With writing you have to apply several coats and very often change colour half way through and start again, not to mention sanding down in between.  It’s a hell of a thing.  Incidentally I can’t think of any writers with nominative determinism – can you?

Kirk out

*It’s Scottish and means a kind of steward or sheriff, so I guess it’s not dissimilar

 

Aaaaaaaaand it’s Back to the Novel-Face

I’ve been taking some time out – a very valuable and useful thing to do – to walk and to decorate; but there comes a point in the life of every writer when she must go back to the laptop and face The Novel once more.  It’s no good waiting for Inspiration to Strike – you must seize it by the throat or at least go to your desk and try to write something.  So here I am.  I’ve read through a couple of the early chapters and made a few changes, and they don’t seem so bad; so the plan is to forge ahead (interestingly I typed ‘forget ahead’ which may also be good advice) and finish the damned thing by doing NaNoWriMo in November.

NaNoWriMo, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is National Novel Writing Month.  All sorts of people do NaNo as it’s a great opportunity to get your arse in gear and write (or finish writing) that novel you always meant to get around to creating.  In my case I shall not be starting from scratch but I will be writing 50,000 words in a month (which is only about 1700 a day, roughly 5 pages) which may or may not take me near the end of the damned thing.

I can’t decide whether to stick to the Fibonacci sequence of chapters (see here for an explanation of the idea:)

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/03/03/nice-shell-suit-was-it-designed-by-fibonacci/

or to abandon it.  On the one hand it’s totally impractical as the chapters get exponentially longer.  On the other hand I can’t seem to get it out of my bloodstream, so we’ll just have to see where it leads us.

And that’s today.

Kirk out

Rectory Towers: The Work Situation

I’m getting into a routine now that I’ve been here a week or so.  The first few days were taken up with other people; sister was here till Friday and from Friday to Monday the house was taken over by a horde of thirty-somethings celebrating nephew’s birthday.  As hordes go they were very gentle and caring; they chatted to me, stacked the dishwasher and put their empty bottles and cans in the recycling, but by Sunday they were all distinctly bleary-eyed and headed off to their respective lives, leaving me to begin mine here, in this house.

I’m settling in to Rectory Towers now, finding a groove that fits with my usual routine.  I do my best writing in the mornings so the hours after breakfast are devoted to the new novel.  I don’t want to say too much about it but the theme is gender and like the TV series it’s called ‘Boy Meets Girl.’  At least that’s the working title.  For the first time I can see myself actually finishing a novel, as opposed to ending it, if you see what I mean.  Previous novels have been forced to a conclusion by sheer marathon efforts, sometimes using NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org) as a spur, sometimes giving myself a time-limit.  Last year’s novel was written in about 2 1/2 months and though it was valuable no-one could say it was finished.  I got satisfaction from bits of it, but not from the thing as a whole.

This time it’s different.  I don’t know how many novels most writers have to complete before they get one they’re happy with, but I suspect it’s a few.  I’ve written maybe seven or eight over the years – I can’t remember now – some for NaNoWriMo and some not.  If you want to write a novel and can’t quite begin, I recommend NaNo – the time is coming up soon, so get with it.  The thing is to just write, get the words down, without thinking about what you’re writing and (above all) whether it’s any good.

I know I’ve said this before about poetry but I think it holds good for prose too – you don’t want the critical voice in there when you’re writing.  When you’re revising, fine – but when you’re doing the first draft, it needs to butt out.

So the first novel I ever wrote – as you’re probably tired of hearing – was about a woman stuck in a nuclear bunker.  She imagines there has been a nuclear apocalypse (it was written in the late ’80’s) and that other people will soon come.  When no-one does she believes they are all dead.  In order to survive the boredom and loneliness she begins to write what are basically her memoirs – and in coming to the most recent past, realises that the apocalypse was not real at all but the product of a mental event (there’s more to this but I won’t go into it now).  The novel is called Seven Days because she’s in the bunker for seven days; creating (or re-creating) herself; and on the seventh day she realises that the bunker isn’t real.

I wanted the story to parallel the timeline of life on earth, which I read somewhere began 300 million years ago.  In order to give myself some idea of what 300 million years was like I began to rule strips of paper into a timeline broken up into spans of a hundred years.  I started to paste them round my wall.  Progress was very slow, and in the end I worked out that if I did this for eight hours a day, seven days a week it would take me three years to complete.

So I guess you could say I got an idea of an idea of what 300 million years is like.  But no more than that.

But enough of this: so far, ‘Boy Meets Girl’ is going well; I’ve written the first few chapters already and I’m ready to plan the next lot.  Each day I put the words from the day before onto the computer and then write another section.  When I’ve done that it’s usually lunchtime; then after lunch I write a blog post or some thoughts in my diary.  Then about three-ish I take the dogs for a walk; then when we come back it’s time to suss out the fuel and wood situation and think about lighting the range.  Once I’ve got the range going I read or write some more for a while and then it’s time for dinner, over which I usually listen to whatever’s on at 6.30 followed by The Archers.  Yes, I’ve got back into the Archers again.

There’s TV in the evenings, or pub; and so to bed, having let the dogs out, checked the gas obsessively, given the dogs their bedtime treat and tucked them in.

Kirk out

Here’s the first chapter of a novel I’ve been writing for several millennia.  Its working title is ‘Leuka’, which is the name of the main character – or MC as Nanowrimo folk call it.  These people are scarily jargon-y, full of acronyms and abbreviations and expressions I can’t understand.  What is a ‘plot bunny’, for example?  I think we should be told.  Anyway, here it is.  Please read and comment:

Chapter 1 – Brown

Gene Rummy

There were 47 couples on the dance-floor that night. He had counted them all – or rather, not counted, exactly but ‘seen’ them in that way that autistic people do. Not that Leon was exactly autistic; he was far too connected; too engaged with other people, too emotional and simpatico. Leuka was watching him as he observed the dancers: in a moment he would notice her looking and would turn and mirror her smile, and perhaps they would dance. Twist. Or perhaps he would object that they would mess up the DNA of the dance floor and so they would have to wait for another couple to retire. Stick.

Leuka sighed.

‘What’s the matter?’ He turned to her now, a look of concern on his face – but suddenly, it felt ridiculous to explain. ‘Shall we dance?’ she said, and instead of arguing, he took her hand and let her lead him onto the floor where she supposed they made 48 couples now.

Twist – and bust.

That night in bed she lay and thought about the spiral of DNA; how a baby grows from a little knot inside, a knot tied, as it were, between seed and egg and how the wobbly ladders of DNA start to form inside the cage, to twist and climb and twirl and expand until the imprint of that person is everywhere – on every lip, every finger, every toe, on the nose and eyeball and intestines and hairs and everything. And once the knot is tied, it all starts to grow: not just the arms and legs but the stomach and buttocks and ribs and eyeballs and vagina and everything! It grows not by fits and starts but slowly, stealthily; secretly in the darkness of the womb. The eyes! She blinked as the pages of her book were going out of focus and tried to imagine the eyes growing – the jelly and the eyelids and retina and wide-open pupils, open wide in wonder at its growing world. She blinked again; there was an eyelash in her eye and she rolled her finger inside the eyelid to get it out. There it was, tiny like – what was it the poet said? the spine of a tiny fragile animal. Imagine, if just one tiny part of that tiny body failed to grow – just think of the problems that would cause! She wondered if there were children whose eyes or stomachs or hearts refused to expand at the same rate as the rest of them, and what would happen.

She thought about Leon’s eyes. They were large and brown; she thought they were brown, though she rarely noticed the colour of people’s eyes; like Maria’s, which were green. Leon thought that odd, but she couldn’t account for it. Perhaps she was too aware of the soul? ‘Thy face in mine eye, thine in mine appears.’ That poem had been read out at their wedding. She thought about their wedding tree, the one they’d been given and had planted in the garden of that house where they’d been married, as they had no garden of their own. She wondered how much it had grown. One day they would have to go back and look, maybe take a cutting. Once they were settled. If they ever were, if they could ever stop wandering and find a place of their own.

Leuka’s first word was hernia, or so she liked to tell people; though in reality it was more likely her seventh or her tenth or her twenty-first. The news was on in that cold bare vicarage where they lodged with the vicar and his wife while Luke was a curate. It would have been the radio news, and out came the sentence: President Truman has had treatment for a hernia. And in all that welter of words Leuka Farrell picked out just one, held it to her lips, swallowed – and repeated it. Hernia. Hernia-hernia-hernia. Hernia-her-her-hernia. She repeated it over and over, and once she had digested it, she put it next to other words, piling them up, laying them end to end like bricks.

Hernia-book. Look-hernia-look-book. Look-a-book.

Look-a-book was her first phrase – probably. Leon always said it’s a matter of interpretation and the parents decide which of the child’s indigestible sounds is actually their first word. What is a word, after all? In later years Leuka was to bang her head against the study of morphology which asks precisely that – and, like most philosophies, gives no answers.

In the beginning was the word.

Then Luke got his first parish, in a different part of London. The church was at one end of the street, the school which was Leuka’s eventual destination, at the other. The vicarage was a huge dark house at the back of the church and down the path between the two, came and went the flapping, crow-black figure of her father.

Leuka was just three when May was born; this tiny reminder of what she herself had once been. Squat and square with a frown below a fringe, Leuka’s dark hair contrasted with her sister’s almost white-blonde wisps. Looking over the cradle at the tiny scrap within in a yellow cellular blanket, she could not believe she herself had ever been so small.

Later when Ivy was born she felt the same sense of exclamation at how tiny she was. And yet how much Ivy had grown just from a knot; a globule no bigger than a gob of spit, spiralling outwards in 47 different ways.

Books and their worlds, their languages. How these are reality to her, how the ‘real world is pale.

Leuka’s name was an oddity. She had been named for a Danish ancestor of Luke’s, but by some blunder the two vowels had been swapped round on the birth certificate. Luke and Jeanne, ever-timid in the face of authority, baulked at the idea of complaining and, rather than cause their child problems in later life, they adapted their spelling to the mistake. No-one in England knew any different, anyway. When she got older, Leuka tired of explaining it and developed a sort of telegraphic answer to questions: ‘Danish ancestry – name spelled wrong on birth certificate’, as though that were her telegram to the world. But she secretly enjoyed the frequent puns on her name and eventually came up with a few of her own, leukaemia being her favourite, at least until Grandma Trentham succumbed to that particular scourge.

They lived in the church, or so the children at school thought; Leuka liked to indulge them with tales of sleeping in the pews and eating round the altar: washing in the font. It all hung together. From a young age Leuka was able to walk down the one-end street to school on her own, her mother’s waving figure growing smaller and the school gates growing larger with every step. At school she chatted to her friends in a dialect Jeanne couldn’t understand; at home she reverted to her native tongue; and in church she spoke an altogether more ancient language: the language of God. You couldn’t use the school tongue in church: once her Sunday School teacher Mrs Kimber who was about a hundred years old and wore a hat like a ripe tomato, told them they must never ever say Cor blimey because it meant God blind me and one day God might think you meant it. Leuka did not believe her.

The church and vicarage were built of the same Victorian red-brick – consubstantial, she might have called them, if she’d known the word. Luke had taken Holy Orders a few years earlier and this broken, cold relic of Victorian glory was his reward. As a child Leuka was obscurely aware of her parents’ struggles and tried with her childish strength to fill the gap, always aware of falling far short. On Sundays the church was dusty and cold and the organ piped a high-up, out-of-reach tune. The sparse congregation all sat in the same place and wore the same hats and coats every week. Old-style coats and hats. Leuka sang the hymns without looking at the book. She was very bored by church, especially evensong and Matins: she was beginning to chafe at having to go to church in a smart suit three times a day. In evensong she would ask during the Nunc Dimittis, ‘Why aren’t we going?’

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…

At school the milk comes every day, a child-size bottle for each of them. They can hear the clinking in the corridor, and then the milkman comes in and puts the crate up on top of the cupboard to sit until break-time. Leuka doesn’t like cream on her milk but Jeanne smacks her lips whenever she has it. It’s to make up for the war, when they didn’t have any and the milk was like water. One wet Monday, when they would have to stay indoors for break, a boy bangs into the cupboard and rocks it. For a moment the whole class holds its breath, even the teacher – and before anyone can stop it, the milk crate comes crashing down from the top of the cupboard; the bottles smash and the milk leaps out of them and spreads everywhere like soft, white fire.

In assembly the headmaster is called Mr Harvey and he calls the reception class ‘the titches’. He is huge and has a big voice which travels all the way to the bottom of the hall and back again.

There are games at the end of the year. Leuka likes spontaneous games but is wary of organised ones, sensing that she will somehow fail. The games she likes best are the ones she is in charge of; but with these games the teachers are in charge.obscure rules everyone else seems to understand without being told

There is a race. Leuka finds herself entered for this, though she doesn’t understand why: she doesn’t know what a race is. She is standing in a field in front of some white lines: the lines are like a stave of music, and to either side of her are other girls of her own age. They all seem to know what to do and they are all looking determined. They all have shorts on, shorts which they knew where to find, and matching t-shirts and plimsolls and socks. Leuka stands looking into the distance; then she goes into a dream. Somewhere in the distance a whistle blows, but she pays it no attention, just weaves it somewhere into the story of her dream. When she comes to, all the other girls have run off into the distance, their heels like little grace-notes skipping between the lines – and now, like the sound ‘coming on’, she can hear the roar of the crowd cheering – and all of a sudden, the realisation clicks into place: you are in this too. And slowly, belatedly, she picks up her feet and starts to run. She gathers speed and runs between the lines as she has seen the other girls do, all the way to where the teachers are waiting in the distance – and when she gets there the tape is lying forgotten on the floor, all the other girls are being congratulated, and Leuka looks up at the faces. But no-one sees. Back in the classroom, they are all given prizes – red or blue balls. All except Leuka. She goes round the room asking each of them if they will share with her, but no-one will. she doesn’t et the prize

Soon they are going to move house. Leuka begs to be able to see the new place and is eventually allowed to ride in a parishioner’s black Humber, all the way round the terrible North Circular Road. She is warned over and over that she will be sick and so she is determined not to be, no matter how nauseous the exhaust-fumes make her. At first she examines the car, exclaiming at its little indicator lights which flip out like tiny aircraft wings, but after a while she grows bored and stares out of the window at the lorries and cars.

‘There’s our friend again,’ says her father.

‘Oh, do you know him?’ asks Leuka, surprised. She has long since learned that not all adults in the world know each other.

The men laugh. ‘No,’ says the man who is driving, ‘we just call him that because we keep overtaking each other.’

Though she doesn’t like them laughing at her, she is interested in them using words in that sideways smiling kind of way, not really meaning what they should.

When they get to the new house it is bare and cold but Leuka doesn’t mind because it is so empty and unused. She runs all over it, taking possession of its bare rooms, its echoing floors and its dusty attic. The attic is intriguing: their other house hasn’t got one, and Luke says it’s where the servants would have lived ‘in the old days.’ The garden is very big and overgrown but the man who let them in says they will ‘strip it’. Leuka thinks that would be a sad thing to do. There’s a garage as well, at the back, though Jeanne and Luke don’t have a car yet. She wants to know which room will be hers. Luke says they’ll have to see, though the room at the top of the stairs at the back will be his and Jeanne’s and it will be decorated ‘by the parish’ along with the hall and stairs and the front downstairs study.

On the journey back Leuka dozes and then wakes while the traffic jerks around the North Circular once more. She arrives home in triumph, having taken possession of the house ahead of her mother and sister.

It’s an age before they move, and when they do the house is still bare and empty though some parts have been decorated and there are carpets on the stairs and landing. Leuka shows May all over it and while the removal men bring in the furniture they play in the wild, overgrown garden. That night when they go to sleep they can see the planes coming in to land one by one through the bare windows.

Kirk out

I’m Mentioned in Dispatches!

Well, following on the Nanowrimo triumph, I had my quarterly copy of Mslexia in the post – and guess what?  My name is in there as one of the upcoming guest bloggers.

lizbit

 

So hot on the heels of this, I sat down to write my first blog post for Mslexia.  Then I decided to write a poem about taxes.  Inspired by Billy Bragg’s ‘Talking with the Tax-Man about Poetry’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_with_the_Taxman_About_Poetry

I began a poem about my feelings when I see those deadly brown envelopes which seep into the house and cause despair wherever they go.  So that helped me to feel better.  Apart from that and a few other bits and bobs, I am having a rest this week and tackling the damp.  Oh, the damp!  I thought that living in a house with central heating would mean there was no damp, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.  We have damp patches in the kitchen and spots on the bathroom ceiling as well as a couple of unnerving splodges which have appeared in the bedroom right above our heads.  Maybe it’s the letters from HMRC which are causing all the damp…

Stand by for my first blog-post on the Mslexia blog, coming up soon:

http://mslexia.wordpress.com

Kirk out

I Dun It! I Dun it! I Dun It!

Yessssssssssssssssss!  75,000 words completed today!  Actually the count according to my laptop was around 76K, though the family computer only made it 73.  But I suspect that computer is a nasty little liar.  So I’m feeling quite chuffed with myself at the moment, the more so since the novel actually has some sort of rough shape which can be licked and honed and generally tweaked until it’s just about pretty damn-near perfect.

Right now I’m waiting for the husband to return so that we can both lay into the potato curry I’ve made.  Potato curry is a staple of mine: since I hate following recipes (see previous post)

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/when-all-else-fails-read-instructions/?preview=true&preview_id=8305&preview_nonce=9daf01a711&post_format=standard

I tend to master a few dishes and then do them over and over.  Pizza is another thing I do regularly, and from time to time we have lasagne; however since Him Indoors is in charge of cooking, I don’t get to do them very often.

Son has returned from an 18th birthday party.  I can’t believe he’ll be 18 in a few weeks too – it’s quite incredible.  As is the thought that daughter will soon have finished her first term at uni.  She’s already thinking about putting a deposit on a flat – apparently they have to do that about now to get one for next year.  Bloody ridiculous.

And that’s it – that’s all the news that’s fit to print.  Have a great Sunday – or what’s left of it.

Kirk out