Writing is a fairly sedentary, safe past time. The risk of a paper cut, callouses from using a pen, or carpal tunnel from a poor workspace set up can be designed out, or at least managed, to minimise their likelihood. But how about putting that writing out into the public domain? as soon as I hit ‘publish’ or ‘send’ in the case of text or email, those words are out there and wide open to interpretation. What is the risk in that? Where do I begin?
Rejection, failure, judgement, vulnerability, revealing a poor grasp of spelling and grammar (yelp! the imposter syndrome!)
…the list goes on but at the heart of all that is the ego and a need for validation- like my work, like me! What is the consequence of that ‘failure’? Well, if I try to be rational about it- failure to have a receptive audience for my writing is really as inconsequential as a paper cut, it’s just that it doesn’t feel like it at the time. It is crushing and the sting remains long after the wound has healed over- sometimes creating enough scar tissue to make you lose heart and stop. But no, not me. I will embrace rejection and find the value in the lessons it provides.
The inspiration behind this post was a recent haiku I submitted for publication on another blog, and the subsequent rejection I received. I had already planned to explore the workings of my head and heart in being rejected, when I chanced upon this week’s discover challenge ‘risk’ and it all fit together nicely. Writing is something that gives me great pleasure but also fills me with fear; frustration; and, anxiety about how my work will be perceived and whether I’m fooling myself to say I’m a writer. If my writing is rejected, that is a rejection of the part of me that identifies as a writer. There is also the inextricable link, via a human need for validation, between who I am and what I produce- it is hard not to take it personally or feel I am putting my soul out for inspection when I allow others to read what I write, let alone judge it and assign it to acceptable and worthy of publication outside of my own blog. In order to learn valuable lessons from this rejection, I decided to explore the ‘why’ as objectively as possible. I was helped largely by the FAQ the blogger referred me to, to answer what must clearly be an oft-asked question ‘why were my haiku rejected?’ I was pleasantly surprised to find some helpful guidance, with a mainly objective list of potential reasons for rejection.
The haiku I submitted was in response to the theme ‘cancer’, on the blog purehaiku. My idea was to explore cancer as a bad habit- something that takes over and is ‘compulsive’ in its need to be sated- those mutated cells dividing, multiplying, spreading, and causing havoc. I submitted the following:
faults multiply to conquer
a habit transmutes
The FAQ about rejection included the following. My response in green italic.
1. the haiku was not constructed with the correct number of syllables. No, couldn’t be this – using the 5/7/5 and verified with counting out syllables on my fingers (seriously) and using this handy syllable counting site.
2. the use of the English language is awkward, forcing the words to fit into the 17 syllable structure. Possibly- will explore this with the next revision (how else to master the craft?)
3. each line is not an entire line in its own right. True- if this means a stand-alone idea or thought, the first line is clearly not communicating much on its own. Beyond knowing that a haiku is 5/7/5, I have no idea, and have never written to some other rule that governs this form of poetry.
4. the haiku does not conjure up a vivid or original image. This is quite subjective. I imaged wires with electrical currents generated by compulsive behaviour which begin to harness their own energy and multiply and grow in a life of their own, before transcending the conduit that was transmitting those currents and just spreading without any containment. I even imagined colours- greens and purples. It was vivid to me and it may capture another reader’s imagination. So, I’ll ignore this one.
5. the haiku does not fit in with the advertised theme. Well, maybe it was a little abstract, but I don’t think that was the issue here. References to ‘multiply’ ‘transmute’ and even ‘conquer’ can be associated with cancer (the disease, not attributes of those with the astrological sign).
Taking into account feedback from points 2 and 3 and the imagery I have described in point 4, I give to you, Cancer Mark II
a meta fission
faults multiply to conquer
a habit transmutes
Please note, this was by no means intended as a vindictive response to being rejected. I honestly appreciate the well thought out FAQ provided by Freya, and enjoyed the process of being able to separate the need for validation with the ability to take critique (though generic in the FAQ) and learn from it. I am a firm believer that risks are worth taking because it is in doing so that life presents opportunities for growth, for serendipitous occurrences, and a chance to extend yourself through the challenges that may come along. Taking the risk of submitting that haiku came with the following benefits:
- inspiration for this haibun (I don’t care if it doesn’t qualify as a haibun because of some obscure 17th century ruling);
- breaking the ice and finally submitting my writing for publication outside of my blog (well, technically the second time, although with the first, I concluded the no-reply was a rejection); and
- a chance to reflect and see that I can untangle the emotions from the opportunities for improvement
I will continue to submit my work and send it out to the universe beyond my blog. I expect to get a lot of rejections and assure you that I will not dedicate a post for each one. 🙂