Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dealing with rejection as a writer

How does one deal with rejection as a writer?

The simple reality is that success and talent are not synonymous and never have been. Good and great writing gets rejected and bad writing gets accepted. It has ever been so. Of course you can learn lessons and you will learn lessons but that does not mean that success will come.

Many of those writers which are now called 'great' were rejected for years; many were not published until after they were dead. In a hoax a few years ago submissions using the work of some great writers were sent to agents and publishers and all were rejected. Can you imagine James Joyce and Ulysses even getting a look-in these days when the fashion is for 'shopping list' writing? He was serially and seriously rejected in his time until someone actually recognised brilliance but today he would be unlikely to be accepted by anyone.

Which raises the other issues which relate to whether or not one is rejected or accepted and first on the list is, taste, or 'fashion.' With the death and dearth of brave and brilliant literary agents and publishers - although the developments online are helping improve this situation - it is the market which drives decisions. In other words, what the agents and publishers believe will sell is what matters, not the quality of the writing.

So your writing may be utterly brilliant, but not to the 'taste' of agents, publishers and the market at this point in time. Rejections will push many to make a decision as to whether or not they continue to write in their own unique and distinct way, no matter if they are never accepted, or whether they will try to change their style to 'suit' the fashion. The latter choice will not gaurantee acceptance either. Which brings me to the other factor at work and that is fate.

Returning to the stark reality that success and talent are not synonymous, and never have been, in any field, takes one to the issue of fate, destiny and plain old dumb luck. There are countless brilliant writers, poets, singers, artists, lawyers, architects - pick a profession or creative skill - out there who will never succeed. There are some who will, alongside lots of mediocre if not incompetent others.

So while there may be valuable lessons to learn which may bring acceptance and success for some, for most there will not. And the only lesson left is to enjoy what you do, speak in your own true voice, gain satisfaction from your creative expression and leave the rest to fate.

At the end of your life, the quality of your creative expression will not be important, no matter how much of a success or failure society might deem you to be; who you were, are and how you lived your life as a person first and writer second will be what matters, to you and to everyone else you touched.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saving poetry from the 'poets'

Why is there so much bad poetry around today? Or so much prose which is called poetry but isn't.

Perhaps the problem is the fact that poetry is so little studied in any general sense by most people and therefore they have less ability to differentiate between what is good poetry and what is bad.

In recent decades poetry has become to mean any collection of words, anywhere from three to thirty thousand, written on a page when much of it is not poetry but prose and some of it akin to shopping lists, bus tickets or delusional dream remnants.

One wonders, with some of the poetry which succeeds or is acclaimed, whether judges are erring on the side of the obscure, as in, they don't really understand what it is saying, if anything, but it sounds clever (sometimes it meanders all over the page and so looks clever as well) and not wanting to admit to their ignorance, being sophisticated intellectuals after all, then they 'stamp' it as good, brilliant, excellent or exceptional.

Erring as we all do, on the side of caution. And one can do that more with poetry than other forms of writing because poetry pretty much never makes money for anyone. Ironically, the same argument should create a situation of higher standards not lesser.

There was in the past a criteria for poetry and generally it was expected to be thematic, rhythmic, musical (rhyme) to some degree, and to actually say something, if not paint a picture in words.

So much poetry, and even those poems which win awards, contain none of the above criteria and would have left our greatest poets throughout history shaking their heads. Does it matter? Yes and no.

 Language is like life always in a state of evolution so why should not writing be the same?  And if more people feel inclined to write because they don't have to follow any rules at all then that too is a good thing because it is creative expression which is vital for mind, body and soul.

But surely at some point, just as all systems require principles, standards, guidelines and 'rules,' so too does poetry. And if we are to have a world where poetry is again, the finest and highest expression of the bard - the ancient soul workers and guides - then that will need to be pushed not just by those who are weary of so much bad poetry, or prose masquerading as poetry, but by those who can actually tell the difference.

And the only way to tell the difference is to spend more time reading the work of our greatest poets, for therein lies not just knowledge but perspective.