Notes on Rejection.

Rejection of your writing is the the best thing that can happen. It says you’re doing something correct. Something right. When people reject something they are afraid of it. They don’t know what it is, they don’t understand what it’s about, and they don’t have the courage to follow through and find out. The majority of publishers/agents want a sure thing. They want something perfect, relevant to the current market, something that will sell, has been unseen and has come from a compliant, malleable writer. They want to make money. They’d like to see your book stacked alongside thousands of bookshelves in bookshops all over the country – and know they are getting 40 percent of each copy sold. Sleeping well in their beds in the sure knowledge that they will never break new ground, never write an original line, never have a reader sit on the edge of their seat or be devastated with fictional heartbreak. They know, deep down, that they are not creative people but have something else – they have the audacity to exploit those that do create. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable for writers to be regarded as quirky, anti-profit, scatterbrained losers that are looking for somebody organised and trustworthy to come and do all the business for them. Writers then began to buy into this idea and became dependent on the publishing industry to dictate their success or lack of it. We now have a situation where the status quo of traditional publishers is to be a bouncer at the creative door where only the mundane is let in – because that’s what sells. We can’t have the pubic confused. We can’t have the public excited. We must tell them what they already know. Add credence to the reality that already exists. There is no room for new boundaries, to bend language or test genre. No, that doesn’t sell, they say. It won’t sell, they say. It’s not the business we’re in, they say. And you are rejected because you are different, and you have something to say, and somebody ought to be hearing it. But you think the only way forward is blocked and their opinion has shot your confidence down and now the world is an artistically poorer place. Because you were rejected. But what you don’t realise is that rejection is acceptance. You are pushing the boundaries and they don’t know what to do. How to respond. What to say. They can’t handle you and they’re worried about their forty percent. If it wasn’t books they’re selling it would be something else – cars, food, computers. Doesn’t matter because they don’t care. It’s all a sale to them. A profit and a loss. That’s why they are confounded now. You are an unknown quantity. What will the bookshops say? The reviewers? The printers? Oh no, no thanks. But you are not for sale. You are not malleable. And you don’t have a choice. You are a vessel to the truth the world needs to hear.

Notes on dialogue.

Some nights, as the writer’s about to go to sleep, she hears a voice. Something random. A snippet, a tannoy announcement, a passing comment, an opinion from a radio presenter. It invades her thoughts loudly, briefly and unannounced and is then gone. As time goes on, the voices become more frequent. More direct. They form sentences. People she doesn’t recognise. At first it’s one, then two, then three people are talking. Conversing. Sometimes arguing. They don’t wait until night anymore. It’s day time now. At work, on the bus, in the car, walking down the street. They’re shouting to be heard. They have opinions on politics, culture, society. They have a past, desires, regrets and hopes. They have fears and wonders. She feels it all. The empathy. As they talk amongst themselves about that accident, that illness, that day their kids were born she listens, eavesdropping in her own mind, feeling the joy, and heartbreak and concern. On social occasions she suffers from disassociation, a low throb, apparent deafness. People talk and say things. They make comments, ask questions, probe her about her life but she can’t properly hear them. The plates clatter, but from a dulled distance. The lights are bright, but obscured by grey noise. Everything she touches feels like rubber. The words people say are proper words but don’t make proper sense. She can’t filter, assimilate the information, she can’t engage because she has the conversations going. And going. And going. At first, it’s a concern. A mental illness? A brain issue? But she doesn’t think so. It’s something else. Because it has a burn attached. A physical urge to do something with the information, the stories, the tales, the fascinating lives. It’s a delicious secret in some ways. This other world, these other people, this other universe where strangers meet to exorcise, to explore, to vent, pontificate, relieve the burden of their conscience. And then one day it’s too much, too loud, there is no room to think, no space to talk, no chance of work. She must do something, address this crowd and see what it is they want. And it soon becomes obvious. They want to be recorded, to be listened to and written down. To be put into context and order. They want their lives to have a meaning, a story to be told, a chapter of their existence allowed into the physical world. She begins with a line. The first line she hears. It seems the best place to start. As the room goes silent and the white noise of reality is blocked out she listens, and she hears it, and records.

*

Notes on Confidence.

It’s over. It’s done. No more writing. Time to delete all the files, all the words, all the articles and the half finished novels and badly baked stories. Take down the blogs. Remove all the links and pictures. Burn all the reviews. Put the laptop in the microwave and swing the microwave to full power. When you’re sure the hard drive is toasted and burnt you take the microwave and all and throw it in the skip downstairs. And now it’s done. No more anxiety about what to write, who to write about, where to start. No more fear that the world is secretly laughing at you, talking in quiet circles about how you can’t write, shouldn’t write, wrote something terrible that makes everyone cringe. How they smile to your face and roll their eyes behind your back. It’s all a joke, a conspiracy, a waste of your life and time and social reputation and it’s time to grow up and stop dreaming. Get a job, a normal job, one that pays normally and you don’t have to beg for the crumbs off the Arts Council table or the publishers that don’t pay on time or the theatres that take 40% of the door when they had agreed 20% but hey, read the small print. Best of luck with the eviction.

But you are now free. The path is clear. The distant dream that has dominated your thoughts for years is gone and now you can sit back and enjoy your life without the unrealistic pressure of making it as an artist. And….well. What else? The next day you wake up and all you want to do is write. There’s that story you’d forgotten about. That song that’s looping in your head and you’re sure it’s original. It’s yours, it’s been fermenting for months and you finally have the tune. That line to finish that poem. That word you’d been waiting for turns up on the newspaper and you know it’s perfect. It’s the perfect ending to the verse of the Poetry that yesterday you regarded as pointless. The theatre isn’t that bad, it was just a clerical error and they call you to apologise. The publisher wants to know why your site is offline because people are trying to buy your books. An e-mail comes from a random stranger to say they’ve enjoyed your work and it touched them in a way that was unique and made an important difference to their lives. And here’s that idea for a film. The soundtrack, the themes, the script, all coming together in a flood of inspiration like water and your head’s like a submarine that’s about to burst with the pressure. Time to go back down to the skip and rescue the laptop but the skip is gone. Still, deep down you know you’ve saved everything on an external hard drive and you needed a new laptop anyway so time to head to the computer shop and ask for Flexi finance. After, you put back all the links, find all the reviews, put the website back online. Find them half baked stories and discover they’re not that bad. Maybe that novel’s closer than you think. Here’s the royalty payment in the post. Rent paid for another month. You confidence is back. Time to get writing.