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Why I Keep Writing

It's anniversary time! I just received my 200th short story rejection since I started submitting back in June 2004. Surprisingly, I'm feeling great about it. It's an achievement, a milestone, another step on the road to... well, wherever this writing road leads.

If anyone had told me that I would have to go this long without making a sale to a professional venue, I probably would have dropped this whole writing adventure long ago. But if anyone told me now that it could very well take between another decade and infinity to become an established writer, I would nod, grit my teeth, and get back to the keyboard.

What happened in those six years of writing to change that attitude?

First, I've discovered that I have stories to tell. I had something to say before I started submitting short stories -- I wrote a 200.000 word novel while I was in the university. However, short story writing has taught me a lot about the themes and ideas I like to work with. They're manifold, varied, and need casts of very different characters. They highlight both the dark and light aspects of life, and I'm glad to say I've written both humorous and pitch-black stories.

Learning that I had a hidden depository of stories and characters inside me has made me go about the writing business with more tenacity and hope than I'd otherwise have mustered. If one story hasn't worked out, another has always taken over and convinced me it should be written. I guess you could say, I couldn't help myself.

Second, I've had a great deal of encouragement along the way. A lot of that comes from fellow writers (Thank you, f-list, Critters, face-to-face group!) Neither can I leave out the letters I've had from many different editors, who read and commented on their rejections, and sometimes even bought and printed my stories. I've also seen a generally rising degree of enthusiasm in both the critique I've had and the letters from the editors, and that has given me a feeling of flow and progress.

Of course, achieving that sense of flow is tricky stuff. Sometimes you don't seem to move at all. Some of my stories have had suggestions for revisions from five different editors, all of them addressing different areas that didn't work. At other times I've been able to work through a sales draught of thirty or more consecutive rejections because of a single sale or the kudos of being a finalist in the Writers of the Future.  

That's why I find 200 rejections is such a great time to look back at the road I've traveled so far. Then it doesn't matter as much that the road up the mountain is still long and steep.

Anyone else care to share why they keep writing? I'd love to hear it :-)


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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
vaughan_stanger
Apr. 12th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)
I think in my case it's a mixture of sheer bloody-mindedness and the realisation that no one else will write my stories for me. Sometimes this recipe fails and I stew in a pond of my own despond until such time as boredom provides the necessary kick up the behind.

Currently, I'm two rejections shy of the 300 mark.
jakobdrud
Apr. 12th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
300 is great! I'll be joining that club sometime in the future, though I don't know when. I'm working a novel right now, which tends to slow things down...

I've also had those slow periods, typically when real life interferes. Fortunately those times pass too.
hildebabble
Apr. 12th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Congrats on the milestone! It's a sign of perseverance. :)

I write for the same basic reason. I have stories to tell, and no one else can tell them for me.
jakobdrud
Apr. 12th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
In that case, you're doing exactly what those stories need you to do :-) And you're certainly achieving what no one else can ever do: telling the stories that you'd most like to read.
dr_phil_physics
Apr. 12th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on hitting the Great Two Hundred. I just had my 300th submission, which means my 300th result is only about ten stories away. (grin) As they say, Your Mileage Will Vary. But if you don't put stuff out there, no one can buy it.

As for why I write, well, I have these ideas and _I_ want to see where they go. And maybe someone else will say, that's cool, let's pay to share these ideas. And that's okay with me. (double-grin)

Dr. Phil
jakobdrud
Apr. 12th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
300 is even better. Especially with a few sales interspersed. I'm taking it from your example that I shouldn't be resting on my laurels yet :-)

And I can see how curiosity about your ideas can be a big motivator.
(Deleted comment)
jakobdrud
Apr. 12th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Because the voices tell me to...

I can understand where that comes from. In a writer, I don't think that's as scary as it would be in other people :-) Some of my stories have started with the voice of a character, or even the voice of a story telling itself. [I've recently started a super hero story that introduced itself that way... and it's a weird one...]
jongibbs
Apr. 12th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
Great post, Jakob!

I think for me it's a combination of stubborness and a deep-rooted belief that I have what it takes to succeed, if I just keep working to improve my writing.

Thanks for sharing :)
jakobdrud
Apr. 12th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks :-) Stubbornness is certainly necessary in this business. And I'm sure your belief in your stories is well-founded. None of us can be sure of success, of course, but I'm sure improvement will be the fruit of our labors.
justin_pilon
Apr. 13th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
Congrats? Ha, I stopped counting after 100 because I started doing all my subs through Duotrope Tracker. I guess if I really wanted to I could add the number from my speadsheet to my Duotrope entries. Nah, too much work... I must be nearing 200. Anyway, keep on going it's bound to happen soon and I suspect you may win a place in WOTF one of these days soon.
jakobdrud
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:49 am (UTC)
"Anyway, keep on going it's bound to happen soon and I suspect you may win a place in WOTF one of these days soon."

Right back at ya :-) (Btw. this is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I use the word encouragement. It's invaluable.)
maryjdal
Apr. 16th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
I came here by way of Jon Gibbs "interesting Posts about writing"
Congrats on your 200th! I write for the same reasons - I can't help it. I feel the need to write them down.
jakobdrud
Apr. 17th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It's strange how compulsory writing can be. I know many writers who feel this way about their work, but no accountants.
musingaloud
Apr. 16th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Ok, this is so what I needed to hear today. Just received a reject too, and I tend to whine and whinge and cry and tell myself it's because I'm a sucky writer. I like hearing positive reactions. I think I've critted a few stories of yours from critters, a long time back. (I've gone inactive the last year). So, HI! And thanks for showing me how much better an upbeat attitude sounds. ;-D I haven't kept track of all my rejections, not numerically anyway, or all in one place. But I started writing about the same time as you and still have no pro sales. I sometimes wonder why I keep writing, because I've sworn to stop a couple of times, but I keep wandering back to it. Because I have to.
jakobdrud
Apr. 17th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
Glad I could cheer you up :-) I've read that Jay Lake has had more than 1000 rejections, and that he still gets lots of them. If a great writer gets that many rejects and still works on, there's no reason why I shouldn't do the same. And since I can't stop writing either, I might as well submit my stories :-)
isleburroughs
Apr. 17th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC)
I'm not whining.(okay, I'm glad I'm not alone.) I just got my reject, too. I'm going for 200 more:D
jakobdrud
Apr. 17th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
It's not like rejections are something to be cheerful about. I certainly have my moments of rolling eyes and thoughts like "What does it take?!?" But as you say, it's not something you have to feel lonely about. So go for another 200 :-)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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