Ninja Captain’s hide out, hop on the linky and join the fun. Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and it’s time to release our fears, anxieties, and insecurities out into the world. Got those covered this month? Great, then lend a hand and spread some encouragement. This month the co hosts are Nancy Thompson, Mark Koopmans, and Heather Gardner, so be sure to head over to their blogs and give them a shout out for lending a hand.
Lately, my family has been asking me why I do it. Why do I go through all the trouble of the pain and rejection and self doubt that is a part of writing (it’s a part of life too, we just don’t talk about all the rejection in life because it doesn’t always come in a nicely worded letter that says "No."). I tried to explain how this business of writing is really about getting up, but that somehow doesn’t cover it. I know you’ve all heard that sage old saying about getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off, so let me tell you a story about falling off a horse.
When I was a kid, my family didn’t have money for nice horses. My father traded a broken down car and a pile of scrap metal for a broken down horse and a pile of scrap metal that vaguely resembled a horse trailer. The horse was 22, named Rocko, and probably the most wonderful gift my father had ever given me. I could sum this horse up in two words: Quirky and Clumsy.
That’s not a good combinations in a half ton creature you plan to send hurtling off into the wilds with a 13 year old on its back. Oh yeah, I was 13 when I got Rocko the Wonder horse. He ate hamburgers and drank soda, and if you weren’t careful, he’d eat your hair (He must have thought it was hay). And like all teenagers, I just wanted to go as fast as possible, so we’d race our horses along the vineyard roads where I grew up. Now, considering that my horse liked soda and cheeseburgers, you can imagine he wasn’t an athlete. I didn’t win.
So there we were, racing through a freshly plowed field next to a vineyard, going just as fast as we possibly could (and I’ll have you know, we took riding horses fast VERY seriously… even if the horses didn’t actually go that fast). And for once, I was in the lead. My spavined horse could feel it, too. We were winning. It felt incredible. We were homing in on the end, running and riding for all we were worth, all the other horses (and not a few ponies) were behind us.
Winning a horse race feels a lot like flying.
At least, it feels like that right up until your horse trips out from under you. My horse did cartwheels in the dirt. Later, when we went over crash site, the scar in the field stretched for almost fifteen meters. I have no rightly idea how I lived, but when I came to, I was at the bottom of an unhappy pile of horse. He got up, and I was able to breathe. Then that twit wandered over to the grapes and started munching on them like nothing had happened.
I had to get up because we weren’t allowed to let the horses eat the vines. The owners didn’t mind us riding in the vineyards, but they got hopping mad if the horses damaged the plants. So I stood up, checked for broken bones (none!) and caught my horse.
Then I got back on my horse and rode home.
My friends all snickered and laughed at me, making fun of how my horse did cartwheels in the dirt and they’d never seen someone fly so high. I laughed along with them, but inside I was hurting. Not the physical pain. There was plenty of that, but I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry. I had been winning. I’d made it to the top of the cool kid pile for seconds. I’d believed I was awesome, and then it was gone. In that one moment, I was forever relegated to the rider of a horse so pathetic he couldn’t even run through a field.
I smiled and laughed with them, but all the way home I wondered: Was it my fault? Had I thrown him off balance? Did I give him some signal? Did I miss something really obvious to cause my—literal!—downfall? Did he just trip over a rock?
And then, a couple days later, it was time to go for a ride again. Alone, I saddled my horse. It was easy to get on the horse when my friends were all standing around and laughing—well, easier; I was shaking quite a bit. But when they were laughing, it was easy because everyone was there, and I knew what I had to do. You get back on the horse, just as soon as you can, but days later, it was different. My ribs still ached, and I was scared. What if he tripped again? What if the next time he didn’t get up in time, and I expired while he laid on me? No one was there to see; I could just quietly go back inside. I was scared, and not a little bit. My hands shook as I put the saddle on. There was no one to see me, so why did I engage in an act of complete idiocy? Why did I push through such mental and physical pain? It’s simple really:
I wanted to ride.
When you start to let your hopes take flight, a rejection feels a lot like that moment I realized my horse was going down. It was a fact. I knew I was going to hit dirt and hard. When I close my eyes I can still see the dirt rushing up and my arms stretched out in front of me like I could catch the ground and keep it from hurting me. Rejection is like that moment when you realize, you’re Buzz Lightyear, and you are *not* a flying toy.
So, why do we writers put up with rejection? Why do we throw ourselves out there time and time again? Why do we quietly send out more query letters/write more books/seek criticism from our lovely betas and CPs? Why do we put ourselves through all that pain and doubt and fear?
It’s simple: we want to write.