FAQ: Why?

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:

compulsive conduits

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. 🙂

 

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51 thoughts on “FAQ: Why?

  1. It has been very positive to read your thoughts on rejection – I’ve had absolute horrors in the past! Don’t give up. Not every haiku I read is accepted. Keep believing in yourself and what you write. Your haiku just wasn’t “right” for purehaiku this time. I hope you will try again later in the summer when we open to submissions once more. You have skill and talent. Don’t let my rejection put you off. much love Freya xxx

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    1. Thanks Freya! It was good to reflect on it. That’s a shame you’ve experienced horrors in reply- is that what made you post the FAQ? Thankyou for the encouragement, and yes, I’ll submit, although it will be my winter. Mek xx

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      1. 🙂 he can count to 7! and knows blue, yellow, white, black, brown, red, green. Don’t get a mum started on how brilliant her child is 🙂 Ask him his name, however, and you get ‘moomun’ (Ruben) 🙂

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  2. Well, I liked it no matter what. I definitely enjoyed reading this piece and it’s interesting to look at our work critically and be able to do so but it’s also nice to enjoy it without ripping apart each line, if you know what I mean. I’m definitely of the latter opinion. It may keep your work from being published to a more wide spread audience, but it will always be enjoyed here.

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    1. Thank you Marissa. Yes, I already have an audience and I’m really appreciative of that. I agree, it does take the fun out of it, but kinda appeals to the other part of my brain that tries to formulate, fix and optimise etc. I prefer version 2 but even then, it may not appeal to others. Thanks for being a part of this journey 😊 x

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  3. What a cool post – personal as well as instructional! Keep writing! Now…I must say that I think you should play with #4 of the “FAQ about rejection.” Why? Because in your mind you are clearly seeing something complete with colors and textures that you didn’t share in the haiku! Wishing you the best!

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    1. Thanks Leslie 😊 I know what uou mean- but oh my – how to get all that into a haiku? I’ll give it some thought- it might have to be a tanka or maybe even abandon structure all together? Thanks agsin, and all the best to you! 😊

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      1. Perhaps you might rewrite it, using cancer as a metaphor, as a background thought. In other words, visualize something concrete that the reader can grab, and place that in the cancer context.

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      2. Thank you so much for adding to this discussion – I will take your suggestion on board for a re-write. I can be quite literal a lot, to my detriment. I want to be less technical and more…well, more poetic haha.

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      3. OMG you are going to have to spell it out for me- do you mean that you can relate because it isn’t abstract and that is the state you have backed down to or you can relate because it is abstract and that is where you’d like to remain but you’ve felt the need to back down?

        Also, why have you had to back down from abstract? I don’t always understand your poems, but they always leave me feeling something so I just carry on with my own interpretations, like ‘what the orange felt like to be cut’ haha.

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      4. I relate to it because it’s abstract and I’ve backed down from being overly abstract, which was often perceived as being intentionally obscure. Nowadays I amost always add something the reader can “hang a hat on,” without, I hope, being too obvious. My goal is never to make readers feel what I feel, but to offer a resonance, a connection of sorts, that they can take for their own.

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      5. Ah okay. Yes, as I said- I always come away feeling something or seeing something with a new perspective, whether or not I understood what your thoughts were. I struggle a lot of the time with being too literal, especially in the short confines of a haiku, and then in this case, when I try not to be too obvious in writing to the theme, I go all abstract *sigh*

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  4. Sheesh! I had to read thru all of those comments to be sure I didn’t repeat! I agree with Leslie and I’d add your writing is much more cerebral than most. I hardly think a haiku can contain it 😉 Love this reflective post.

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    1. Ha! you made me laugh with ‘I hardly think a haiku can contain it’ yes, me who just posted > 2000 words on a LinkedIn post, and that was after culling what I called fluff. I really struggle with brevity, which is why I have enjoyed the challenge of haiku. Thanks for the feedback, Kathy. I think I’ll do a take 3 on this and post down the track…

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  5. A provocative post! I haven’t quite wrapped my head around a desire for publication. It still seems abstract to me…a step removed when I can publish on my blog and be involved in more immediate and actual dialogue in the comments. Comes with being a new poet perhaps? But I can relate to wanting to ‘get out there’ as a poet. So I’ve been challenging myself to read at a poet’s open mike. Most everyone there is published so I figure it’s a step. It’s terrifying but I find I really like reading my stuff out loud. And this is definitely beginning to change the way I write. And being taken seriously is encouraging.
    It’s all good which ever way we take the plunge. I like the little chapbooks I see in the bookstores lately. All self published prose, poetry, art. Whole fascinating little worlds. I can see your stories in something like this…picked up and hard to put down!

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    1. I like to provoke 🙂 Funny you should mention that, about publication. My partner is an artist (painter) and he hasn’t wavered from that or made it a sideline. As tough as it is- that is his life and career. Some people can’t compromise on pursing their art full time, but I came to the realisation recently that I am actually creatively fulfilled via my blog. It doesn’t matter if I am published or not (honestly)- I get a thrill every time I write something and an even bigger thrill when readers engage with me. I see value in what I do in my day job, even though it isn’t writing, so really it’s a win win situation- I keep working at the writing and eventually, it may reach a wider audience and give me even more time to write. In the meantime though, I figure it doesn’t hurt to submit stuff to other publications as a litmus test of the more critical world outside my own blog .

      That is so cool you’ve been doing the open mike! Can you point me to poems you have read at the open mike? Feedback definitely helps with growth. In fact, some of the discussion here really influenced the way I wrote my next post (Violet Nebula).

      Thank you so much for the closing remark! 🙂

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