Your Stories Are Not Sacred God Poop

I’m hopped up on a combination of cold and flu tablets and the first full night’s sleep I’ve had in about five years, courtesy of the CPAP machine, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m feeling a little punchy today.

There’s this “How to Survive a Relationship With a Writer” meme going around on Facebook at the moment – hopefully the link above will take you too it, but Facebook is always hit and miss on such things. Said meme is full of 10 points designed to  make living with your writers SO easier and, like most such memes, is basically played for laughs.

But it’s appeared in my feed three or four times now, and every time I lose my shit when I hit point ten:

10. Leave your writers a lone when a rejection letter arrives. After the deadly silence, screaming, crying, moaning, and muttering have subsided, offer your writer a cup of coffee or tea. And a cupcake. And a hug.

People, we need to stop doing this. Rejection letters are not the enemy. They are not something that should be sending you into a screaming, crying, moaning, rage. They are not something where your significant other should be coddling you and trying to make you feel better about the world.

We may be playing this list for laughs, but at the core of the humour there is truth, and the truth of this one is that writers get a pass on all sorts of bad behaviour because we fetishize writing as a form of “genius” in the traditional sense – someone in the possession of a guiding spirit/god/muse who forces them to create. It comes from the assumption that every goddamnn thing that gets put on the page is like some kind of pristine, all-important work pooped into your brain by a muse so that it can be worshipped and validated.

Say it with me folks: Fuck. That. Shit.

Editors do not reject works of genius. They reject stories. Sometimes they reject the story ’cause it’s bad. Sometimes they reject a perfectly good story because it’s not right for their magazine. Sometimes they reject a great story because they’re having a bad day, or ’cause you’ve used a parenthetical aside in your opening paragraph that shit that makes them crazy.

Rejection, in and of itself, is not a bad thing and shouldn’t require special consideration from your partner. It’s part of the damn job of being a writer.  Here’s my suggestion: when your writer gets a rejection letter and starts moaning or muttering or making out its the end of the world, try dating an adult instead.


  9 comments for “Your Stories Are Not Sacred God Poop

  1. 12/05/2015 at 9:46 AM

    I knew I'd married right this weekend when I told my wife about getting a record three rejections on the same day, and she smiled sympathetically and asked me if I was going to make her a coffee now.

    • petermball
      12/05/2015 at 10:04 AM

      See, that's *exactly* the right reaction 🙂

  2. 12/05/2015 at 10:34 AM

    Seems like good advice overall but the big takeaway is "full night's sleep". Huzzah!

    • petermball
      12/05/2015 at 11:27 AM

      Yeah, it's weird. It's not quite a magic bullet fix – I'm still tired and woke up up at least once – but it's pretty damn close.

      • 12/05/2015 at 9:34 PM

        It takes time. I got a sleep apnoea diagnosis about eighteen months ago, and it was a few weeks before I really started to feel better.

  3. Charlotte Nash
    12/05/2015 at 10:38 AM

    Here, here.

  4. incognitiously
    12/05/2015 at 11:15 AM

    Honestly, the whole list is rotten with miss-the-mark twee. I was thinking for a while about why it bugged me so much, and I finally settled on how infantilising it is towards writers, almost like we're pets or something. Which is not a bad premise for a joke, but it needs to be executed well. This one is not.

    As for rejections: it's like working as a bus driver and getting inordinately upset when you inevitably get cut off in traffic. Some days you'll merge just fine, and some days some jackhat will almost make you soil yourself with alarm and indignation. That's just how it is. Keep driving.

    • petermball
      12/05/2015 at 12:15 PM

      About 80% of stuff written about writing tends to infantilise writers in some way. Culturally, we'd actually be much more comfortable if writers were actually insane vessels for the gods, barely able to feed themselves between bouts of divine inspiration.

  5. Catherine
    13/05/2015 at 1:35 AM

    A man after my own heart, if I had one. I've never had a problem with rejection letters. Back when they actually came on paper I used to write grocery lists on the back. You just send the story someplace else. If the rejection notes all say pretty much the same thing, you do a rewrite. How hard is that?

Leave a Reply