Nil Bastardum Carborundum (Don’t let the bastards get you down)


There are several things that upset me. A kick in the groin. A sad movie. Personal upheaval and family tragedy. I’ve probably not listed those in the best order. However, one of the main things that genuinely upsets me is watching aspiring writers give up. Below are three of the reasons why writers give up, and my personal thoughts on why these reasons shouldn’t really get between a writer and their deserved success.

Rejection Letters

Rejection letters must be one of the commonest fatal blows to a writer’s confidence and enthusiasm. After a writer has put a massive effort into creating a piece of literature, the act of receiving a short ‘thanks but no thanks’ missive can be crushing.

The harsh truth about rejection letters is that many of them are sent out when the editors or publishers rejecting the material haven’t read the submission. This doesn’t reflect on the quality of what’s been written. It reflects on the overflowing schedule of many publishers/editors.

There are plenty of online articles referencing the successful novels that have been rejected by numerous publishers, including works by Stephen King, Anne Frank, J K Rowling and James Joyce. Keep in mind, just because a piece of work has been rejected, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth publishing.

Self Doubts

I find it easy to doubt my own writing. The words have come from inside my head. I write using rules learnt a long time ago at school. And those rules keep changing depending who I talk to and how much they remember from their own education. Am I allowed to split an infinitive? Can I remember what an infinitive is? Am I supposed to write what I know? Show don’t tell? Kill adverbs or embrace them judiciously?

With so many conflicting opinions it’s easy to quit and do something where the rules are less complicated. And it’s a sorry day when a potential writer gives up because of these niggling self doubts.

The truth is that all writers fret about these things. Writing styles vary from publishing house to publishing house. And the only thing that’s ever consistent with writing is that there must be some level of clarity. Adverbs, show-don’t-tell and split infinitives make for fascinating discussions. But the only thing that will count to the ultimate reader is the clear message being conveyed by the writer.

Status Envy

In this current climate of Tweeting, FaceBook and other media platforms, it’s easy to think that every other writer in the world is doing well and you are the only writer currently receiving rejections or having your work judged as being inferior. Status updates constantly refer to writers being accepted, published, delighted to be mentioned in, overjoyed by the stellar review… etc. Very few writers update their status to say: Just been rejected or 20,000 words wasted because that idea didn’t work out.

I’ve often wanted to say to send a Confucian style wish to some writers: may your life be as satisfying and fulfilling as your FaceBook status suggests. But I would worry it might come across as sour grapes.

No writer has a perfect life 100% of the time. FaceBook and Twitter seldom reflect the stubbed-toes, lost files and missed deadlines of a writer’s real existence. Rather than fretting that our own lives aren’t as glamorous as the online notifications we receive from other writers, we should be remembering that we were busy writing whilst they were wasting their time tweeting another update.

There are other things that can stop writers from writing. And, as I said before, it causes me genuine pain to think that society and circumstances have silenced another potential voice. I can only hope, if anyone is reading this and thinking of giving up, they’ll reconsider the decision and continue writing.

Ashley Lister
October 2011

“The Write Stuff” © 2011 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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