How to Write – First, Learn To Juggle…

To follow-up on my last post “HOW TO WRITE – COMPLETE WITH BUNNIES” I decided to re-blog an article I wrote a lot of years ago on how to make it as a writer – back before the internet kicked in.


How To Write – First, Learn to Juggle

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just not working out.”

“Let’s just be friends.”

Everybody has to deal with rejection at one time or another. From the first time you see that ashtray you worked so hard on in art class, stuffed in the same basement box as Aunt Millie’s latest attempt at a family tree; to that promotion you fought so hard for and then had to watch as it was handed to the boss’s dweeb third cousin, twice removed.

One of the hardest things to deal with when you are getting started as a small press writer, is rejection.

“Sorry, this doesn’t fit our current needs.”

“Not for us.”

“Have you ever thought of taking up plumbing as a profession?”

Writing is a numbers game. You learn that the first time your teacher tells you she wants to see a five page essay on what makes ducks fly north. You learn to elaborate, to spin vivid description, to write really big and how the margins can be creatively adjusted on your dad’s word processor. If I say a lot, you figure, maybe the teacher won’t notice that I’m saying nothing at all.

Writing can be that way, at first. You’re just trying to pad the pages, until that really great opening scene that game to you in the midst of a bout of sleep deprived fervour inspired by an all night monster movie marathon, and that nifty ending you cribbed from a 1963 movie that you found in the basement box next to your ashtray and Aunt Millie’s attempted geneology; can somehow be linked together if you can just write enough paragraphs and/or chapters.

Writing is a confidence game. You have to relax and think you’re good enough at what you’re doing to be printed. It can shake that confidence if the first thing you send out is rejected.

When I first started writing with the intent of publication in mind, I would write one story and send it off and sit down and wait. Then, when the inevitable rejection came back I would go into a state of mourning, wearing a black hockey sweater and frantically scribbling angst ridden suicide notes. Five weeks later I would gather up the courage to send the same story out to another market, and repeat the process.

Then I learned to juggle. When I got my second story out, (a collection of angst ridden suicide notes strung about the thematic device of a second hand hockey sweater), I sent it out. Now I had two stories out. When the first story came back, with another rejection, it didn’t hurt so bad. I had another story out there that was sure to sell. Hockey was big that year. I felt confident.

Confident enough to write a third story and send it off.

Are you getting the idea?

A beginning writer needs to have a goal. A beginning writer needs to have a body of work. What better way to conjure up that body of work than by writing a large group of stories, poems or articles. Once you have a dozen, two dozen, or thirty submissions in the mail at any given time, rejection becomes nearly painless.

And you will learn, as well. Writers aren’t born, they grow. There’s an old saying – to be a writer you must first write a million words. Give yourself the time to learn how to compose a story. Give yourself time to learn how to market a story. Be a juggler. Get those stories out there, in midair.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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