We humans like to organize. We like to categorize, to place things in places, and know exactly how things should be sorted. It’s the reason that IKEA is heaven on earth: an entire store designed to make it easier to organize your life–i.e. your home.
We even organize ourselves. We decide what colors we look good in (fiery and vibrant colors), what kinds of activities we do (swimming, gaming, running), and who we spend time with. We put different values on the categories we create, like when I hang out with the hipsters, that’s much better than when I hang out with the jocks. Sometimes, we find ourselves in categories by chance, but learn to embrace them, like when I got my fourth tattoo, I guess that makes me a tattoo person!
What happens when the category to which we’ve ascribed ourselves and placed at the height of our value meter is called into question? It feels like a threat to identity, because the categories to which we belong become intertwined with who we really are. After all, wasn’t thinking the activity which defined Descartes?
In the past two weeks, I have submitted written work to outside editors. Once on Medium, for a closed collection called “Human Parts,” and once for the online portion of the at which I work. I was satisfied with both pieces, having taken more time with their creation than most. Multiple readings had corrected all of the obvious errors, and major revisions had changed tone, voice, and even tense or grammatical person. I was ready to receive some feedback, and eager to see my name on a website other than one I own–at this point, that list is becoming quite extensive.
Both pieces were turned down as they are. Not, we can work on this, or let’s adjust a few pieces, but straight up, This Won’t Do. Which, in a brain like mine, especially one reading emails before 7:30am on a small iPhone screen, is translated automatically to read Your Writing Sucks and You Should Just Give Up. Gee, thanks, brain.
The reality is that my brain often interprets rejection this way: [You or something about you] sucks, and you should just give up. Don’t subject yourself on the world. Frankly, I’m tired of living in a brain that does that.
It’s not to say I’m not extremely disappointed to be told not once but twice that my writing is insufficient for the task at hand. I know how to write personally, and academically. I just don’t seem to have mastered the art of writing to prompt in a commercial way. That’s okay, a new skill to add to the deck. I’m sure Valise Magazine will help teach me that too, even though there’s no editor. I always say I’m my harshest critic, now it’s time to prove it.
If I am, as I have long defined myself, a writer, then I’d better keep writing. I’d better write more often, more deeply, and more extensively. Even if it’s terrible now, I can’t be that far from that 10,000 hour mastery rule, right? I’ll get there if I keep going. The thought of giving up is not a bearable one, so this will have to be the alternative. Keep writing, keep submitting, and always risk rejection. After all, I am a writer, not an editor. Maybe I should start practicing that too.