Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Writing and Rejection

Stephen King was once told that his kind of writing does not sell. John le Carre was described as a writer who "has no future." Gone with the Wind was rejected thirty-eight times. After dozens of rejections, J. K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book finally found a small UK publisher willing to consider it only at the urging of the CEO's eight-year-old daughter.

Writers and rejection go hand in hand. How we deal with it can determine whether we achieve success, however we define it. But one thing is certain:  no one succeeds who stops trying.

Perhaps the first rejection is the hardest. It dispels the dream of being another Daniel Nava who, on June 12, hit a grand slam home run off of his first major-league pitch. But just because we don't hit a grand slam in our first at bat does not mean we never will.

Sometimes rejection can be a good thing--just as pruning can be good for a bush. It can encourage growth. Many authors have a half-dozen abandoned manuscripts in a drawer before they sell one, but rejection of earlier works could be the motivator the writer needed to do better with each subsequent effort. 

Some writers feel like giving up after a few rejection letters. Why, they reason, should they expose their egos to further bruising? It would be easier if we learned to expect rejection while still hoping for acceptance--a hard balance, but one that would help when the inevitable rejection occurs. Rejection is not really about the author; it is just about the work. It's not personal, but it still feels that way.

I am not arguing that rejection is not discouraging. There is an often-repeated story that Stephen King threw away his manuscript of Carrie because he was so discouraged by repeated rejection. Supposedly it was his wife who rescued it from the trash. It helps to have people who believe in us--but we must also believe in ourselves.

The higher we set our goals, the harder it can be to reach them--and the longer it can take. But we're only letting ourselves down if we let a little failure keep us from continuing to try. 

So, when we get a rejection, we should try to look upon it as a disappointment, but not a failure. And we should keep going--keep striving. For that is the only way we can truly succeed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Red Sox Faithful

Back before 2004, I used to say that Red Sox fans made the best spouses (or partners, or friends). The reason was simple. The Red Sox had not won a World Series in eighty-six years. EIGHTY-SIX YEARS! They started the twentieth century with five World Series wins, but after 1918--nothing. My dad was born, educated, served in a war, married, raised children, retired, and died without ever seeing a Red Sox World Series victory. 

It's not that the Sox didn't make it into the World Series. They did--every so often. In 1946 they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967 they lost in seven games . . . to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1975 they lost--in seven games--to the Cincinnati Reds. And in 1986 they lost--yet again in seven games--to the New York Mets. 

They always made us think that they had a chance. In '86, with two out in the ninth inning, the ball rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner at first base. Buckner was injured and should have been on the bench, but the manager wanted him on the field to celebrate the first World Series victory in (then) sixty-eight years. But it didn't happen.

Still, year after year, the Red Sox fans stuck with them.

The Sox had many successes. The last player to bat .400 in a season was Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. The last player to win baseball's Triple Crown (leading the league in home runs, RBIs, and batting average in a single year) was Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski. Countless others have distiguished themselves in legendary Fenway Park and gone on to the Hall of Fame. No wonder fans around the country have flocked to games, making up the "Red Sox Nation" so dubbed by Boston Globe feature writer Nathan Cobb.  And the Red Sox usually made it interesting--getting into the playoffs, or just missing them, or dramatically folding in September after a hot summer season. 

But they broke our hearts. Year after year after year. 

We still loved them. We still watched them. We still believed in them. 

That's why Red Sox fans make good spouses. They know how to hang in there through all the ups and downs. And they are loyal beyond all reason. 

Now the Red Sox have given us not one, but two, World Series championships in this decade--one in 2004 (in four games against the St. Louis Cardinals), and another in 2007 (in four games against the Colorado Rockies). 

Today's children are like those of a century ago--being brought up in a world where "Red Sox" is a synonym for "Winner" (despite what Yankee fans might say). The Red Sox currently hold the record for most consecutive sell-outs at a home game--and it is growing every game.

But this year the Red Sox are not doing as well as the Johnny-come-lately fans have come to expect. Their hitting is not as overpowering. Their fielding could use some work. And their win/loss record to date is an un-awe-inspiring 31/24, putting them third in the American League Eastern Division.

So, what will happen now? Will all the new fans brought in by the wins of '04 and '07 stick with them? Will they become imbued with the same irrational loyalty of the fans of old? Or, as many predict, with the sell-out streak end--as all streaks must--and the once robust "Nation" retreat into more of a "city-state?"

Time will tell. But I, for one, will remain loyal and true . . . as will my spouse.