Monday, April 16, 2012

When is a book like a kid?

Writers compare their books to children all the time. Having two children of my own and being way too literal minded, I used to think this comparison was dumb.

How could I book be like a child?

True, writing requires bucket loads of time, energy, emotion and passion, just like raising children. And also true, writing is sometimes a thankless job, like parenting. True again, that writing is something that never feels finished, a lifelong job, just like parenting.

The similarities were plain but the comparison never felt apt because, say what you will about a good book, it's still not a living breathing human being. It took the publication of Losing Beauty for me to understand the comparison.

With kids, there are all kinds of rejections. The early ones get you ready for the later ones. At two years old Child #1 declared the French navy blue jumper decorated with pale pink rosebuds I had purchased for a special event to be a "no go." Instead she wore a baseball shirt proclaiming Brooklyn in big red letters and a pair of jeans.

Saturday night, on the way out to dinner I kissed her good bye. She stopped what she was doing long enough to look me up and down and say, "Umm, no offense, but I hope you're friends like what you're wearing better than I do. Jumpsuits are sort of weird." Which would have been offensive, if she hadn't been rejecting my fashion choices since the age of two.

Writers get similar rejections; the agent rejections, the magazine rejections and finally the publication rejections. Those first rejections hurt. I really wanted Child #1 to wear that navy blue jumper, in much the same way I wanted my first book to get published. In retrospect, I realize the unworn jumper and unpublished book made all the rejections that followed a tiny bit easier.

On Friday I mentioned my fears about sending my daughter to kindergarten. I was terrified the people she met wouldn't appreciate her or understand all her nuances.

Guess what? They didn't. Not all of them anyway.

In the years since kindergarten I've been forced to come to terms with the fact that when people look at my kids they don't always see the same things I do. I've also learned some people DO see the things I love about my kids.

In much the same way, there are people who love Losing Beauty and understand exactly what I was trying to convey. And there are people who don't.

Fortunately, sending my human babies off to school was the perfect preparation for the latter group. To the bad reviews or the people who don't see the good things about my children I have the same response; a small shrug and the knowledge that, in the end, it's really their loss.

And now I'm curious, what experiences have helped you develop thick skin and the ability to accept rejection?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good analogy. And for those who don't like my books, I just think "I didn't write it for you." Meaning, they are not the audience for which it was intended.

Cassie Mae said...

I have to keep telling myself as long as I am happy with the books I write, then that's all that matters. :)

Larry Shuput said...

When i am painting it truly is for me. likes, dislikes and sales are secondary. I do believe that if i am true to myself and consistent, the message will come across.

Morgan said...

LOVE THIS! I particularly love the bit about writing being a thankless job, like parenting sometimes.

So clever.

Time. And choosing to keep moving forward has brought me out of the rejection slump. It's totally a choice. And funny, how on this side of things, I'm *grateful* for rejection!

Nicki Elson said...

Hey, I never thought about the rejection/critical similarity. I agree with Morgan that time, and the experience that goes with that time, is about the only way to truly toughen that skin.

Julie Flanders said...

This is a beautiful analogy. I'm still working on developing that thick skin but I'm getting there!

Jenny S. Morris said...

My kids rejecting me is like a knife through the heart. LOL. They actually don't do it that much but they are still young. I am still learning how to deal with rejection. My newest thing-covering my ears and yelling-la, la, la. ;0)

Scarlett said...

I'm so wrapped up in the writing at this stage, I can't even imagine the harsh criticisms outside of my own! I guess that's what critique groups are for. *g*

I should probably get right on that! Though, I don't quite know where to begin.

The true test of the writer's endurance must really be in the acceptance that not everyone will fall in love with it. Heartbreaking when it's your own offspring, in the flesh or on the page.

I applaud you, Johanna, for your strength!

Emily R. King said...

I think this is a fair comparison. My writing won't ever be a substitute for my children, but I love it in a lot of the same ways. Oh, and being pregnant has given a whole new meaning to drafting. LOL!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I can only speak for me, but this is what I’ve learned:

1.Believe in yourself and your abilities (which are sitting in the largest room in the world—the room for improvement).

2.You cannot please everyone and that is especially true with artistic endeavors. There’s a reason for the adage: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

3.People’s likes and dislikes are highly subjective.

4.Rejections are based on #2 and #3 and therefore not personal so don’t take it personally.

5.No matter what I do, I give it my best. I compete with myself and with my current level of best. I know whatever I do today, I can do better tomorrow.

So, if I get rejected,I pick myself up, wipe the crap out of my eyes, and slap a bandage on the boo-boo and keep moving forward--if I don't, I'm going to get trampled by those on the same path and behind me.

I listen, learn, and apply. Repeat. Do I get discouraged? Yes. Do I obsess? No. I don't have!

Weaver said...

what a fabulous comparison. lol

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, exactly!

Cassie, I think that's the perfect attitude.

Larry, so important to be true to yourself.

Thanks Morgan, isn't it funny how we can be grateful for rejection.

Nicki, the tough skin is so crucial.

Thanks Julie!

Jenny, I'm going to try the covering my ears thing and see if it works ;)

Emily, LOL, now I'm only going to think of pregnancy as drafting.

Sia, those were all such great points! Thank you so much for taking the time to share them.

Thanks Donna!

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, nice analogy! Only with books, you can't argue with your spouse about who is responsible when they do something really terrible... erm... not that that ever happens *shifty*