They walk over with your baby dangling in their hands as if it’s some diseased malformed object. Your fingers tremble and take it. Red mars the beautiful face of your only child. Like streaks of blood drawn with a dagger, the crimson stains litter the delicate skin. Your tears cause the red marks to run and smear, and your eyes stare into their hardened eyes.
“What did you do to my baby?” Your lips quiver.
“What needed to be done.” Their voice is emotionless and void of any concern for your feelings. They walk away.
You stifle a cry and cradle your baby close.
They turn at the sound of your whimper, lips stretched thin. “Have those edits back to me in forty-eight hours.”
It’s the life of a writer torn asunder right after the ink dries on a publishing contract. That piece of perfection you panhandled to see in all its printed glory has come back to you looking like Staples had a sale on red markers and your editor bought them out.
When the tears dry and the temper tantrums have exhausted you, it’s time to get to work. Sure you might be able to argue a point here and there but ultimately, your publisher is your boss and they will have the final say whether you hold your breath for a million years or not.
While I have yet to get the inevitable edits back for the anthologies I have pending, I know they will come. Why?
Because no one’s perfect. Period. Not me, not your beta buddy, and not your sister’s husband’s second cousin twice removed. The sooner anyone who’s diving into the shark tank learns this, the better off they’ll be. There is room to grow no matter what stage you’re at in your writing career.
Just open your ears and listen. No one wants to hear how great you are at the keyboard or with a pen. Humility is a great tool to employ.
While the manic voices might not like the idea that someone told you your golden nugget is really tinfoil sprayed with lacquer paint, you’re not trying to dance for the one hand clap chorus. The worst person to have in your literary boxing ring is the person who pastes your latest work to their naked sweaty body and streaks across the neighborhood singing the praises of your first draft. The swift sting of a glove across the cheek followed by a drill sergeant screaming in your face how your script isn’t worthy to wipe his ass is going to hurt but be much more kind than what some publishers will do to you through rejection letters.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. The point is not everyone is going to get you and to expect to be lavished with roses as you tread along your published pages is, well, idiotic. You’ve got to learn to take the good with the bad like a grown up.
I look forward to my first review of one of my published pieces. I want to know if someone thought the pages would be better served to line the bottom of their bird’s cage or a great addition to start a fire to make smores.
Do it. Go ahead, world. Try and break me. I’m not perfect and never will be.
I, however, had some great people in Scribophile smack me around and wedgie me so hard I couldn’t sit for a month. No amount of pouting lip would sway them into not running my granny panties up the flagpole.
Aimee Laine mocked my adverbs and shook me to pieces with “SHOW DON’T TELL, DAMN YOU!” (paraphrasing). J. A. Belfield* sniggered at my Sunday best, pushing my poor work into the mud. Joce, Julie, Rebecca,–and pardon any Pens Sisters I might have forgot–pushed me to the ledge and held onto my shirt while threatening to push me over if I didn’t stop using some of those stupid little phrases over and over.
Critiques stab you with a knife. Reviews twist the blade deeper.
Now put on a fucking band-aid and get the hell back out into the dodge ball circle. Nothing in life gets any easier. It’s how we move on that defines where we’re going in this world. Don’t forget to wear a cup, boys.
*J. A. Belfield’s ::stare:: has been known to geld a man.