These past few weeks, I have been counting my blessings.
In a writerly sense, this year has already brought me a shortlisting and publication of four short fictions. Later this year, I will be a Writer-in-Residence at the Peter Cowan Writers Centre, thanks largely to my 2017 FAWWA residency
and my refusal to be genre-bound.
I am, I feel, on track — yet what this means for me may be strange to you.
I am not earning megabucks from my writing and, in spite of birthing a growing family of manuscripts, I have not one full-length work under contract. My work is still form-letter rejected much more frequently than it is accepted or even personally rejected (85% more, based on last year’s submission figures).
But I get to spend time with my craft every day. With the stream of rejections comes a steady drip of longlistings, shortlistings, and finalist-ings, acceptances and personal rejections — and, with each of these, I notice my work crystallise that tiny bit more. Storylines are more solid; characters and places, more alive; my voice, clearer.
Each rejection gives me another chance to interrogate my work. The people, perspectives, and experiences that challenge me give me opportunities to clarify who I am and detach from what I am not. Every acceptance and almost-there reminds me I’m not just writing for me — although we do ourselves and the world a great disservice, I believe, if we write to an audience, particularly before our words are fully formed.
If we over-edit in pursuit of perfection, we censor the perfect imperfection — the magick! — from our words. We put ourselves at risk of editing out our own voice.
Yet if every story that could ever be told already has, all we have are our unique perspectives and voices. Our voices need time and space to grow in strength — beyond others’ influences and without expectations.
It might seem silly to say, but I am grateful for the fact I do not yet have that full-length publication. Being an unknown gives me unpressured writing time and space, to create in whichever direction I want, to forge my own way. I would be a very different writer today if the first draft of my first manuscript had been accepted. Or if I had been offered a contract on the twelfth draft of my second manuscript.
My journey is jagged and wonderful, enriched by the special people around me, the people who believe in me. They remind me how important it is to look after body and soul as well as mind — how, as organic and multidimensional beings we must live off the page as well as in it. They remind me that sometimes we have to fight for the important people and values and things; other times, we just have to hold time and space. They remind me of the importance of breath and passion and purpose and health, and of small things.
Yes, these past few weeks, I have been counting my blessings. And so it is that, in spite of having no publishing contract, no agent, and a burgeoning file of rejections, I will keep doing what I am already doing: I will write.
And when that publishing contract comes, I will be ready.