Piqued by my litany of failure, Elaine Aldred has interviewed me for her blog. It was actually quite painful being made to dwell more deeply on the years of humiliation that my file of rejection letters represents. But I hope something useful comes out of it for other writers. And maybe now I can put it all behind me? Maybe I’ll even shred the file… Mmm, not so sure about that. It seems I really do want to hold on to my rejections.
Thinking about why that might be, I wonder if it’s because it’s easy to forget how hard it actually was for me to get published, and how long it took. I keep the letters because they are a reminder of my struggle. Also, they’re a reminder to me never to take being published for granted. To remain consciously grateful that I did, finally, make it.
Sometimes now it seems as though it was always meant to be. But it never felt like that at the time I was getting the rejections. If anything, it felt the opposite. That it would never happen for me, because it was obvious I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t work out what.
Well, that’s how it felt. Now I don’t see it like that. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was writing books I wanted to write, the way I thought they needed to be written. Nothing wrong with that. The fact that I couldn’t find anyone to publish them doesn’t affect the validity of what I was doing. Writing and publishing are two separate things.
But yes, there were problems with those novels. All of them would have benefited from thorough editing, and I don’t just mean sub-editing. But if I hadn’t written those books that nobody wanted, I wouldn’t have been able to write the few books I have that someone has seen fit to want. The latter could so easily have never happened for me.
I think I am a better writer – and I hope a better person – for all my years of rejection. I think I do understand, as much as anyone can, what writers who are struggling to get published now are going through.