Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Need To Write

Sometimes I wonder why I write. Isn't the whole point of writing to be read? And if you are not read, then isn't writing pointless? A waste of time?

On a totally different topic - you might think - I was watching an old episode of 'Tales of the Unexpected' on DVD. It was not, I think, one of the ones written by Roald Dahl unfortunately. But despite that, it wasn't a bad story. Anyway, in it a possible film-backer was talking to a new author and she said something to him along the lines that 'writers understand things'. Writers understand things. A line written by a writer but placed in the mouth of a well-to-do woman getting a free lunch.

The two paragraphs above are not unrelated as you may have thought. The whole point of that line in the episode was to really highlight to the view that writers do NOT understand 'things'. Clearly the writer in the episode did not. Clearly the many writers who have received reject after reject did not understand things.

Only when they become famous (read 'popular') is that special and magic 'understanding' characteristic applied to them. A little like the 'overnight success' that some actors achieve after years and years of struggle.

In reality, writers express things - that can be said. Some of them are very intelligent, some are very witty, some are extremely observant. But they all have two things in common.

Firstly, they express things. They may or may not like what they are expressing but they express them never-the-less. A writer - a true writer - will not sit back with an idea and ignore it. Regardless of whether or not they think anyone will read it, they still write it.

Secondly, like all artists, they are driven by their need to create. Creating for others is important but 'creating' is the driver. Even if no-one ever gets to read their works, they still must write them.

Which brings me to my first paragraph. If I write this piece and no-one ever reads it - is it a waste? Is it time to put down my keyboard and take up stoat-juggling?

The answer is, of course, no. Writer Wrote, Reader didn't Read, but there's always hope.

The following is a list of important things to remember for the budding writer. You may get rejections - you may not even get read - but at the end of the day, persistence is the bridge to achievement. I'm not sure where the original list came from - but what's important is that no-one's overnight success came without many years of struggle.

I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.

These were the words used by one of the editors of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper when rejecting one of Mr. Kipling’s short stories. Mr. Kipling is now a revered author and the San Francisco Examiner is….
Dune was rejected 20 times before successfully reaching print – and becoming one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later Sorceror’s) Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers, including biggies like Penguin and HarperCollins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it on at the behest of the CEO’s eight-year old daughter, who begged her father to print the book.
C.S. Lewis, received over 800 rejections before he made his first sale. Lewis’s works have now been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies over the years. C.S. Lewis Quotes: What you want is practice, practice, practice.
Richard Bach has always said that this story, told from the point of view of a young seagull, wasn’t written but channeled. When he sent out the story, Bach received 18 rejection letters. Nobody thought a story about a seagull that flew not for survival but for the joy of flying itself would have an audience. Boy, were they wrong! Macmillan Publishers finally picked up Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1972, and that year the book sold more than a million copies. A movie followed in 1973, with a sound track by Neil Diamond.
Pirsig’s manuscript attempts to understand the true meaning of life. By the time it was finally published in 1974, the book had been turned down 121 times. The editor who finally published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance said of Pirsig’s book, “It forced me to decide what I was in publishing for.” Indeed, Zen has given millions of readers an accessible, enjoyable book for seeking insight into their own lives.
MA*SH by Richard Hooker
Before the television series, there was the film. Before the film, there was the novel. Richard Hooker’s unforgettable book about a medical unit serving in the Korean War was rejected by 21 publishers before eventually seeing the light of day. It remains a story of courage and friendship that connects with audiences around the world in times of war and peace.
Carrie by Stephen King

If it hadn’t been for Stephen King’s wife, Tabitha, the iconic image of a young girl in a prom dress covered in pig’s blood would not exist. King received 30 rejections for his story of a tormented girl with telekinetic powers, and then he threw it in the trash. Tabitha fished it out. King sent his story around again and, eventually, Carrie was published. The novel became a classic in the horror genre and has enjoyed film and TV adaptations as well. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from someone who believes in you.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The only book that Margaret Mitchell ever published, Gone With the Wind won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, set in the South during the Civil War, was rejected by 38 publishers before it was printed. The 1939 movie made of Mitchell’s love story, which starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is the highest grossing Hollywood film of all time (adjusted for inflation).
oh, and just for good measure:

Dr. Seuss got rejection letters, too. Here is one:
“too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
Here’s a rejection letter for THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK:
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
H.G. Wells had to endure the indignity of a rejection when he submitted his manuscript, “The War of the Worlds” that said, “An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”...I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’.”

And when he tried to market “The Time Machine,” it was said, “It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.”
Did you know that only seven of Emily Dickinson’s poems were ever published during her lifetime? A rejection early in her career said, “(Your poems) are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.”
Edgar Allen Poe was told, “Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.”
Herman Melville, who had written a manuscript entitled “Moby Dick,” was told, “We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in (England). It is very long, rather old-fashioned…”

1 comment:

ausie said...

On the Internet at least, anyone can publish anything. It may or may not be read, but it can be published none the less.