There are many ways to test the boundaries of your comfort zone. Traveling is only one of them. A more risky method, to some, is to put ourselves – our creativity – “out there” into the public eye. All writers, all artists, hope for accolades and sales, and fans. But first comes rejection.
We’ve all been there. Rejection letter after rejection letter. How many do you have tucked away in a drawer or shoebox? Or filed away electronically in your email inbox? From magazine editors, to book publishers, to literary agents. From faded photocopies of impersonal form letters to scathing commentaries on your lack of creativity. It hurts, doesn’t it?
And in-person rejection? Even worse. Workshops with editors and fellow writers can be a wonderful place to find inspiration and make friends, but they can also be gut wrenchingly painful. But if you can survive being skewered by a professional book editor like the “evil Ginger” (as we referred to her afterward), you can survive anything. Even Hollywood.
In 1996, I wrote a spec script titled “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother,” for the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” about Dr. Bashir’s efforts to save the same dying aliens who had murdered his parents. A few months later, in 1997, that script earned me the rare chance to pitch ideas to the series’ producers. I took those experiences I had at the writers workshops and steeled my nerves as I walked onto the lot at Paramount Studios. I told myself I would do better. And I did, though probably not my best. I was still nervous. I recall laughing at a non-funny comment. But I also remember a nodding head, and “interesting” while watching the producer scribble some notes on a yellow legal pad. The meeting ended cordially with a handshake and a “we’ll call you.”
I had a lot of hope that phone call would come, but it never did. That was disappointing, and depressing. But no writer can let that stop them. You have to keep trying. Keep writing. Write, re-write, edit, re-write.
Never dump an idea. I resurrected the title of that spec script for a fantasy short story published on the web. And I transformed the script into a science-fiction short story, “The Life of Words.” Dr. Bashir’s parents became the “brilliant but dead Bashins” and Dr. Bashir morphed into a linguistic anthropologist named August Goodloe. The aliens, and their terminal condition, remained the driving force of the story. Originally published in the journal of Anthropology and Humanism, “The Life of Words” is now found as part of my “Skin and Bones” anthology available on Amazon Kindle.
And all those rejection letters still tucked away in a drawer? Someday they’ll make nice kindling for a bonfire.