Monday, January 25, 2010

Guitar Callouses

Years ago, my mother got the urge to play the guitar. She picked up a used acoustic and found a teacher. Funny thing about the guitar: it chews up your fingers. The instructor reassured Mom she'd eventually develop callouses, and it wouldn't hurt anymore.

Sure enough, the skin on her fingertips began to thicken, but Mom hated the way it felt. She'd pick at her fingers until the callouses came off...and they once again bled from the guitar strings. She decided it wasn't worth the aggravation and quit.

Learning to write is a lot like taking guitar lessons. We write our words and send them off into the big, wide world. Then the rejections start appearing in our mailboxes. Ouch! Our mentors and fellow writers assure us that we'll grow a thicker skin, that we'll adjust.

Instead of allowing the process to toughen us, we take everything to heart and rip the protective shell off. If we want to write for publication, rejections are inevitable. It's part of the business. Let's save ourselves some pain and allow that thick skin develop.

How do you handle rejection? Of course, most of us reach for the chocolate? But, then what?

32 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

I pray, pray pray and trust that God has a perfect plan and perfect timing! Blessings to you, Susan!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I've accepted the fact that most of my writing will be rejected, but there is a good side to that:

1. I can learn from the comments I receive to improve my writing.

2. I need to investigate more where I send my stories if they are interested/accepting submissions for my genre of story.

3. And most important...I'm a writer and no rejection will stop me from writing. Just makes me more determined to write more!

And a good cry never hurt!! Followed by a bowl of ice cream!! LOL!!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Katie -

You can never go wrong trusting God. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donna -

With many excellent writers out there, an expectation of every piece getting published is unrealistic. Thanks for sharing how you handle rejection.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Karen Lange said...

I like this comparison! In theory I expect rejections or bad reviews. In reality, they sting. But I use them to move forward and glean valid points for a positive change. And then keep moving forward some more. And yes, I keep chocolate handy:)
Blessings,
Karen

patti said...

GREAT metaphor, Susan!!!
I really try to learn from the comments and often realize that my writing and the house just aren't good fits--for me, for them...For GOD.

Patti

Cindy said...

Hi, Susan! That's a great analogy, not just because I play the guitar :) We do have to grow a thick skin to be a writer--or at least one that wants to get published.

Lately I've found rejections harder to take than they usually are. This is because I know I've grown as a writer and I'm working at a different level than I was before. In that sense, I think it makes the rejections more personal. On the other side, though, I can eventually pull myself back enough to look at the rejection and learn from it instead of simply tossing it aside. I'll only continue to grow if I take in the good and bad and then work to be even better.

Jean Fischer said...

I love the guitar analogy, Susan.

The theme of my blog post this week is "Teachable Moments." I believe that each rejection notice holds a teachable moment. As writers, we should look beyond rejection and toward what we can learn from it.

Like Katie said, God has a perfect plan. Pray and seek His will for your writing, and don't quit. Keep on writing and learning about the craft.

Carol J. Alexander said...

Hi Susan,
When I'm rejected, I ask myself, "What can I learn from this situation?" And then, "Where can I go from here?" meaning that if magazine A doesn't want my story then maybe magazine B will.
I also do the same thing when I'm edited.
Have a great week,
Carol

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

Even with a thick skin, rejection isn't pleasant. As Katie said earlier, praying and trusting God with our futures is key.

I once heard someone say that we must not allow past failures to determine our future.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

I had a rejection not too long ago that really stung. Pretending it doesn't hurt won't ease the pain. Bringing it to the Lord and learning from the experience turned a negative into a positive.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

Good point. Our writing is so much a part of us it's hard not to take rejection personally.

One publication had 3,000 entries for 52 spots in an anthology. Even if I was in the top 100, number 53 would mean a rejection.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

I enjoyed your post and hope others will check it out. :)

Putting the Lord first and seeking His will saves a lot of wrong turns in our lives. Great advice.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carol -

Thanks for making another excellent point.

I recently re-wrote an article rejected by one publication and submitted it to another. Maybe it will be accepted by them.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

A friend told me that rejections are very handy because they validate for the IRS that we are working authors.
That puts a positive spin on it!
And hopefully there are nuggets provided by the rejector that we can learn from.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

Now, there's a point I didn't think to mention. Thanks for bringing up the IRS info.

I've been fortunate that one editor sent me feedback. I re-submitted the article, but still got a rejection. I'll try that publication again one of these days.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Maria I. Morgan said...

Love the analogy, Susan! Fortunately, when I've gotten the dreaded 'rejection,' the publishers have been more than kind. This has helped me to continue the submission process. Chocolate always helps, too! :) God bless!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Maria -

While I love the chocolate cure, its application must be handled with care. Otherwise, I might end up with a migraine.

Lately, I've been substituting rice pudding. I know - strange. But with a dash of cinnamon...yummy!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Diane said...

My husband plays guitar and they are hard and calloused. Thick skin.... easier said than done.

www.dianeestrella.com

quietspirit said...

Susan:
Once when I received a writing rejection, I read what I had sent the people. I had sent it out prematurely. I found errors and bad writing, in something I thought was ready to submit.

I intend to send something for submission soon. I have found little things I had to correct and it's already been critiqued at writing group. I spent time last week going over it about four times.

I will print out the edited copy this week and go over it at least twice more.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Then comes the Coca-Cola. :0) And the prayer.

My first two jobs were very different, but both gave me callouses: dry cleaning and car detailing. One from the hangers on my fingers and the other from cleaning in the same rhythm for hours on end. When my time at the jobs ended and the callouses left, it felt really strange!

Terri Tiffany said...

Good example here! I usually get sad for a little bit, then put it away and move on to the next project knowing there is alway that opportunity waiting!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Diane -

Thanks for your comment. We see people playing guitar all the time, but don't understand the initial discomfort.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

I think we've all submitted things before they were ready. Allowing a manuscript to sit for a few days and then re-reading it is always a good idea.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

Wow, another important point! If the activity that produces the callouses stops, they will eventually go away. If we're inconsistent in our writing, those callouses against rejection won't form properly or will deteriorate.

Thanks for giving us another reason to avoid procrastination.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Perhaps someday you'll revisit those articles/stories and work on them. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Prayer, lots of prayer gets me through tough critiques and rejections.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

That's #1 for me. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Faith Imagined said...

I was struggling with the issue of rejection until God taught me something very cool! He said that writers have divine appointments with certain readers.

The readers who "reject" us simply were not meant to connect with our writing. They didn't have the divine appoinment!

That is why there is a variety of writers. God needs each of us to reach the people He has planned for us.

So my goal is to reach those readers that God has in my path, and not worry about the rest.

~alisa hope

Sharon Ball said...

I try my best to give my disappointment to Jesus, but sometimes it takes me a little time to shake out of the yuckiness. Somehow, though, rejection never gets easier for me.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon-

I don't think the disappointment or pain go away totally. Like you said, we learn to give them over to Him.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Faith Imagined -

Oh, I love that!

God knows what audience will respond to the message He's given us. If we follow Him instead of running down every rabbit trail, we'll find that group of people.

Blessings,
Susan :)