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How to Write: Lessons 28 and 29
Lesson 28: Convolution, Lesson 29: Rejection
Lesson 28: Convolution
"I'm nothing but a stranger in this world. I got a home on high."
What if you went to sleep in 2001 and woke up 20 years later? Holy shit. Have things changed, or what? You're older but that's nothing compared to what's happened around you. People are controlled by iPhones. Seriously. Take a look. What the fuck do they do on those things all day? Games? Tinder? News? Work? I haven't the slightest clue, but someone could write about it, I suppose. People do write about it. All day, every day. But they can't write. The funny thing is that ten times more people are trying to write about what's going on around them, none of whom can write. And the reason they can't write is that what's going on around them keeps them brainwashed shitless. Try writing about being brainwashed shitless when you're brainwashed shitless. It's impossible. You get into continuous parenthetical loops Back when I was writing I wrote about simple, straightforward things that actually happened, like in chapter 26:
Nothing simple or straightforward happens now. Things are convoluted beyond understanding...and if you want to write about it, you need to get just as convoluted as it is, which nobody can make heads nor tails of. You have to try to get simple again. I've grown a tad Miniver Cheevyesque:
"Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn, grew lean while he assailed the seasons; he wept that he was ever born, and he had reasons. Miniver loved the days of old when swords were bright, and steeds were prancing; the vision of a warrior bold would set him dancing. Miniver sighed for what was not, and dreamed, and rested from his labors; he dreamed of Thebes and Camelot, and Priam's neighbors. Miniver mourned the ripe renown that made so many a name so fragrant; he mourned Romance, now on the town, and Art, a vagrant..."
--Edwin Arlington Robinson
That's a quote from one of Ginny's favorite poems. Here's another one:
"The centipede was happy quite, until the toad in fun asked him which leg went after which, which drove him into such a pitch he lay distracted in a ditch, considering how to run."
I just figured out what this lesson's about. Yippee! Describe the most complicated things so that any ten-year-old can understand them.
Lesson 29: Rejection
Getting your writing rejected is a sure sign that it truly sucks. This includes just about everything. Or it’s so good it can't be accepted, i.e., it's unacceptably exceptional. This is very rare, indeed. Ginny Good is, obviously, the latter. During the last twenty years, my writing has been “rejected” in one way or another, at least 500,000 times…by agents, editors, publishers, producers, newspapers, magazines, etc., each of whom (with the exception of two agents and one publisher) was ignored or rejected. You can read about it here:
Here’s a silly exchange from an agent I just found whilst rummaging around in my old, archived website:
”Dear Gerard, Thank you so much for offering us the chance to look at your work with a view towards representation. Unfortunately, your work does not seem to be quite right for us. As you probably know, publishing is an industry based largely on instinct and emotional response. Since your work deserves the energetic and passionate representation that we can't offer you, we will step aside for an agent who can and undoubtedly will. Regards, Katie Glick, Assistant to Jennifer Rudolph Walsh”
I answered her:
“Dear Katie: Nice boilerplate, man. And from Jennifer's second assistant, too. Wow. Am I honored or what? Since you obviously haven't a clue what my work's about, I'm sure it didn't seem "quite right" for you. Here are some quotes from reviews of my first book—which was the editor's only choice as the best nonfiction book of 2004—to give you a better idea of what my other books are like. Thanks. G.”
"Comparisons with Salinger and Twain are not overstated..."
"...turned my soul inside out. Ginny was one of the most lambent pieces of writing I've ever read. It ripped me apart on the inside so much that I couldn't function for days...the best of tragedies, top notch Greek quality..."
"I was not reminded of any other book when I put this book down, and so I can only come to one conclusion: this is a great and new kind of literature!"
"Though not a short book, it can be read in one gulp-it's so seamless and effortless and is obviously the work of a tremendous craftsman."
"...it's great to read a book that actually means something. To the author, and to me. It's heartfelt, real, and incredibly funny."
"I've got three kids, and it's been a long time since I had the time, energy, or room within me to let a book suck me in the way this one did. When I got my copy of Lolita, years ago, the cover quote was, ‘The only convincing love story of our century.' That was the 20th century, however, and as far as that quote goes, the torch ought to be passed to Ginny Good."
"...makes Angela's Ashes look like a Harlequin romance."
"I've chosen to take the dark sadness that I found in some parts of Ginny Good and attribute them to the author's skill rather than things he had to endure..."
".... Jones cares deeply about everything that befalls him and Ginny and the others we meet in Ginny Good. And he wants us to know he cares, but he wants us to find our own way to that conclusion. It's this intelligent respect for the intelligence of his reader that makes Ginny Good sing."
"You are, well, you are the real thing. Your book is the real thing. Absolutely beautiful writing. Damned near perfect. Maybe even flawless. Yow. Thank you."
"...for a while I thought the fire of literary creation had gone all the way out. In this book I think I see a coal still glowing in there somewhere."
Chapter 28 is close to the crappiest chapter in the whole book but it, all by itself, is better that almost all the books published in the last 20 years:
I say “almost all” because there are a few decent writers who got their stuff published or produced, generally despite the assholes who run the media and entertainment industries. Those are the guys these lessons are for. If just a few of them write something worth reading or writing in the next 20 years I will have done my job whether any of them read this or not.
Get rejected. It’s the only way you stand any chance of doing anything worth doing. Get rejected a million times if you can. Maybe with all these new-fangled social media platforms you can actually do that. Take each rejection personally. Be hurt by it. Be embarrassed. Be humiliated. Make what you do better the next time. And the time after that. Good luck.