My most recent story submission returned with a rejection. As someone who’s sent out stories for years, I am inured to the sting of the form letter. Yet this last one had a personal note, which I usually find enlightening.
“We loved your unique take on the werewolf theme.”
The thing is, the story I sent didn’t have any werewolves in it. Not even close. There was a guy walking a dog, and then later stealing dogs, but no one transforming into lunar beasts.
My conclusion is this — they totally didn’t understand where the story was coming from. This, in itself, served as a lightning rod of realization. I’m not going to be that writer with broad appeal, the one whose books appear in supermarket racks (if they even have those anymore).
Creating art relies on a level of honesty most people are uncomfortable with. You drop the bucket down the well of your soul and see what comes back up. Sometimes it’s a Snow White song. Sometimes it’s Samara Morgan (from The Ring).
Art without a level of intimacy will feel false. You cannot separate the art from the artist. Creation is a form of self therapy. Who are you really? You are what you create.
A quote from Neil Gaiman springs to mind:
I realized that if you’re going to write…you had to be willing to do the equivalent of walking down a street naked. You had to be able to show too much of yourself. You had to be just a little bit more honest than you were comfortable with.
Parading down the street naked terrifies me. Though less so than it used to. So no, that particular magazine didn’t get me. But I can’t let that change who I am.
I’m that guy screaming stories in the corner. Not everyone wants to listen. In fact most people would steer clear. But a few might wander closer. And those are the ones I want to speak to.