Saturday, March 29, 2008

Can You Spot Rejection?

The life of a
writer is filled with rejection. In fact the lives of creative people in general are filled with rejeAbstract Expressionist, Hugh MacLeod, Gapingvoid, Adler, News, Frank Stella, Minimalist, Psychology, Author, Memoir,  Novel,ction. I remember my high school art teacher, Mrs. Partridge, critiquing my latest masterpiece with the direct and pointed observation "David, I'm sorry but you have no taste". Fair enough. She was of the classical school and I was involved in 1960-70's hardline minimalist abstract expressionism the likes of Frank Stella. Honestly, I don't even think much about Stella today, but at the time I had so completely rejected realism that my tonal studies of colours and shapes were such complete universes that I could loose myself inside them for weeks during their manufacture. They were my drugs, and I loved them.

I remember another teacher saying the problem with all artists was that they were lazy. "They think that once they've had the idea that the process is complete.", he said, "They don't think taking the time to make the painting or sculpture is worthwhile because the idea will remain the same". I didn't see it that way at all.

One of my first impressions of the way people perceived art was at a spring school courtyard exhibition. Staying well out of the way of guests so as not to give away that I was the creator, I listened to incredibly precise delineations of my perceived mental state, imagination, harmony, disillusionment, and documentation of said mental gymnastics so as to clearly point out that I was either terminally disturbed or a farking genius. And I laughed secretly and pretty damn loudly inside. Absolutely 100% of the crap these purveyors of fine art were spewing was inaccurate – at least to me. My paintings were colour and shape studies only – at least that's all I intended them to be. Maybe there were a bunch of Adler graduates in the crowd, but I doubt it – not in Moline, Illinois.

The critiques would continue, through my editorial work, theatre performances and yet even more art exhibits. I may not have had any taste, but I was certainly learning how to get a buzz going. No two critiques were the same. No two critics agreed. And all of it was good. I made stuff and people talked about it. That seemed a good enough occupation of my time to me – the trick then was to figure out how to make a living out of it.

Making a living at creation has turned out to be not much different than maintaining any other job. There are some tasks ones does to bring home the bacon and others one does for personal growth. You can keep a pretty good job so long as you don't appear to be completely and totally self serving. Those who sit in a building and bite the hands that feed them (ad agencies, music companies, magazines, newspapers, etc.) by saying what great fucking talents they are and decrying being chained to things like office hours and actual clients or consumers are probably just hacks. They miss the point that maybe one day that job will be gone and nobody will buy their fucking book or screenplay.

"Pay up Shakespeare – bar's closing".

Writing books is the sort of thing one does for personal growth. In the early stages it certainly will not pay any bills. But just writing it down is one thing – selling it is quite another. And so I'm back to the critiques, from agents, readers, friends and potential publishers and even people I don't know at all.

So let's play a game!

Below are actual statements made by individuals about the work on this blog and the book Wild Wild East. Some of the statements are from friends and fans – some are from actual rejection letters. See if you can guess which ones are rejections and which ones are sincere compliments – then, after you've had a good go of it, mouse-over the phrases and discover their true origins. You may be surprised.

"Your writing is very vivid and smart..."

"As you surely know, you
are an extremely good writer"...

"Your story reads very well,
and you have the ability to promote it"...

"I have to admit it's getting better ...
it's getting better all the

"Your blog is fun, insightful, and says
more about you than the topics."

"I like your book, btw..."


  1. Hey, neither this post nor any older ones have shown up from either my email or RSS subscriptions -- i like to compare.

    So where's the service round here, eh? ;)

  2. Oh, you want service do ya? Here's all I can tell you...I've got a bunch of email subscribers and they seem to get them just fine. Send me an email at my email address in the header description and I'll see if I can sort this out, okay? Service/smervice...geez what do I look like, a short order cook?

  3. sheesh. uppity dang bloggers...

  4. As an Art teacher, I totally agree mate.Art needs demystified. Art is no more glamorous or mysterious than cutting a hedge, or laying a floor. It boils down to just plain hard work - no that's not quite accurate- let's use the words engagement and application. It may be compared to the cliche of: 'when going on a trip somewhere it's more often than not the traveling there which is enriching not the reward of arrival.'

    Far too many folk are ready to buy into the studied coolness of Art and what it means to be 'an Artist' walking around with the head on side, projecting a living embodiment of wacky unpredictability giving the impression of rarified realm which is just beyond the layman's reach. Bullshit! Without the substance; the when can you show me your portfolio?. . then its all just veneer. How we end up loving the veneer, if something remains mysterious to us!

  5. James! You rock and are dead on! Thank you.


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