Well, the Writer and I had a chat about his funk this morning as I shaved our face. He confessed his issues were due to feedback received.
This was for a short story, "Next Gen", as part of the 'On the Premises' contest. "Next Gen" was not selected as a finalist. OTP offers feedback for a price. The writer and I agree that paying for feedback is not a course we want to follow but he and I discussed this last rejection.
"We don't buy feedback on general principle," he said.
"But wouldn't feedback be useful? I mean, don't you want to know what they thought and why they didn't buy the story?"
"Yes, but 'experts' say not to buy feedback."
"I know, but wouldn't feedback be useful? It might be the light you need."
"Yes, but...what if they're really mean? What if they say, 'I don't know where to start. This was garbage.'"
"They won't do that."
"They might. You don't know."
"Come on, that's not professional and they are professional. What you're suggesting isn't realistic. You're being insecure."
"Clever of you to notice. You're very observant."
"Thanks. Let's do it this time and see what they say. Come on, my treat."
Even then, he wouldn't let me pull the trigger for like, three days. I finally did while he was out of the room.
He saw the feedback on Saturday. It devastated him, not because they were mean. Actually, they said something like, 'We thought this was one of the most compelling and creative entries received.'
"See that?" I asked the Writer.
He shrugged it off. "Read on."
There were syntax issues too problematic for OTP to consider the story as a finalist. What really disturbed the Writer is that he'd seen them and he'd ignored them. "All that writing and editing," he said, "and then I convinced myself that the problems I saw were in my head. I was wrong. I should have listened to myself."
"Actually, the Reader saw that and told you about it."
The Writer glared at me. "Why do I suddenly smell bullshit?"
"Yes, okay, point taken, you and the Reader and I are all one person and the difference here only matters in the metaphysical bizarro world of talking with you and referring to you. Okay, now that we've gotten out of the way, was the feedback helpful? Would you do it again?"
The Writer thought a while. "Yes. I would. It taught me to listen to myself, whether it's the Reader or Writer talking. Pay attention - trust yourself. And the feedback was only ten dollars, well worth it. They pointed out things that will help. It's not my strengths that will keep me from getting published, it's my weaknesses."
The platitude made him feel better. Will I remember the lesson? It's a painful, emotional one because writing is personal. Those are my words, my baby, being rejected. It's expected.
Lots of valuable and good lessons and insights there. Next question: what is OTP's next contest?
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com