Writing is a lonely activity in its execution and in its preparation. By preparation I mean reading. Lately I’ve been reading posts from other writers with WordPress blogs about writing. Cristian Mihai’s latest post, The Little Things…, started off with something that’s burdened me for a long, long time. He wrote:
“We’ve been told (and we keep on telling ourselves on a regular basis) that life finds a way, that somehow things turn out for the better. That if you want it, you can have it.
Sadly, that’s not true.”
He’s absolutely right. Granted, most of the time when I start to think like this it’s because I’m in a down period, self induced or otherwise, and I’m about to partake in some serious pity partying. Sometimes this truth hits me in just the right way, at just the right time, to keep me grounded; so I’ll take note, possibly learn something.
Right now is one of those times.
Like Cristian I’m a writer. I remember the exact moment when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I was seven or eight and had just finished The Boxcar Children #1. I was so moved by it that I thought to myself, “I want to write something that makes someone feel the way I do right now.”
I remember going to the used bookstore with my parents. I would wander the aisles looking for the perfect book, which was the one with the most eye-catching cover. One time I picked up Dune. The huge worm on the cover with the tiny man riding it called to me. I flipped through the pages, fanning them in front of my nose. This was my other criterion. My father had taught me that you could tell a good book from the way it smells. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I love the smell of books, period. I think that was his point.
I flipped through Dune reading a sentence here, a paragraph there. Then I came upon the dictionary in the back. If the cover and the smell hadn’t already sold me, this did. I was floored that a book could have it’s own dictionary. It was far too advanced for me, but my parents never questioned my choices. I suppose it was like a Xmas sweater which is too large. They figured I would eventually grow into it.
In school I had one wonderfully supportive teacher after another. Between their guidance and my friends and family I ended up majoring in Creative Writing in college. While my academic career sometimes felt more like a hazing than an education, it was a learning experience I wouldn’t change—though I might change a class or two.
After college I promptly entered the work force in IT because I had to start paying back my loans. All the while I’ve tinkered here and there. I’ve had a few stories published. I actually got to read a personal essay on a local radio show called Naked Lunch. In the past ten years I’ve been exploiting this new blog phenomenon on the interwebs. I have even been writing for several sites other than my own.
Which brings me to the part where even if you want something, you work hard to get it, that doesn’t mean it will happen. In other words, I’ve been writing, but I don’t know if I’ve affected anyone else the way Gertrude Chandler Warner did for me when I was a child. For the time being at least I can take comfort in the fact that I have places which publish my mental droppings.
Or so I thought.
I write (or possibly wrote, I’m not sure at this point) for an online publication Whatculture. I write for them for free, and up until now the exchange has been a good one for us both. They are a growing company; I’m a budding writer. Unfortunately the spread between our rates of growth has become a insurmountable chasm. While I’m ready to admit that my articles might not be particularly interesting to their audience, the way in which the editors are communicating our creative differences is distressing.
Zip. Zero. Nada.
At first I noticed that it was taking longer and longer for the editors to post my articles. As they have implemented a point system, gamifying the act of writing articles, I can understand that they would want to take more “value-adding” writers’ articles first. Duh. When it took a week to correct one word in one of my articles, and that was only because I pestered the editor—it might have been longer—, I thought this might be more than just shuffling priorities.
Where I could dismiss the delay as just “how things are,” I’m having a much harder time misinterpreting what happened with my last assignment. Both of the articles I wrote covering Texas Frightmare Weekend were deleted. With the first, a primer for those not familiar with the convention, I was warned that it wasn’t publishable. It was too much like an advertisement. So, I edited it. After a few days I checked on its status, which would have had it published after the event but whatever. At least it would have been seen. It hadn’t been published. In fact, it was gone.
I let it go and worked on my coverage piece. I submitted it. A few days later I checked and it too had been deleted. No word. No nothing. I wrote my editor asking what happened. I still haven’t heard a word.
Still, you keep on truckin’.
As a writer I have had my fair share of rejection slips and form letters. I’m expecting more in the coming years. They don’t hurt like in the beginning, but they still sting. This is something wholly different. To commandeer Oscar Wilde’s quote for my own purposes, the only thing worse than being out right rejected is being ignored. I’m not a blubbering wussy looking for consolation. I’m a big boy; I’ve been ignored before. It’s just strange how things were peachy and then… nothing.
To add insult to injury, I paid at least $200 out-of-pocket to make the trip to get the story.
I still have a valid login, so I assume I still write for them. With a growing resentment over this situation, I have to ask if writing for them is even worth it at all? It’s definitely not worth my spending any more of my own money.
Therein lies another difficult reality for writers, when do you quit? Whether or not it is because you’ve made a mistake, or if the working relationship isn’t a fit, or whatever, quitting has the stigma of losing. The standard platitudes are grating at best. Cut your loses. Get out while you can. Really? No shit? Tell me something I don’t know. That’s not the problem. The problem is the truth of the matter is a very bitter pill to swallow.
For the moment I don’t really have to think about it. Right now I’m looking for places to publish the article. What’s more, I’m looking for places to take articles for the other two conventions I was going to cover for Whatculture. It’s frustrating because if I can’t find another outlet I can’t in all good conscious accept the press passes. My press passes were contingent on writing the article. While I consider myself a scalawag, I do so as a lovable rascal. I don’t want to be “That Guy.” What a dick.
Sigh. Paying dues is never easy, is it? Then again, no one ever said it was going to be.
Until next week…