I’ve had so many rejections over the last few years that if wallpaper was still a design choice for homes, I could easily print each rejection once and have enough pages to cover a small home. I know rejection is a part of the game, and some have said that fewer rejections will happen over time, but I’m not the most patient individual. Rejections are hard to take–especially when your genre is creative nonfiction, and you write memoir/personal essays. Each form rejection letter sent feels like a personal rejection because it seems like a part of my life was rejected as not being good enough. I already feel like I’m not good enough on all kinds of levels, so when the one thing I’ve always been told I’m good at gets rejected multiple times, I’m ready to call it a day.
I haven’t called it a day, yet . . . but . . .
I submitted another piece last week, and this week I received Rejection Letters #8,523, #8,524, and #8,525 (maybe not quite that many, bit it feels like it) within the last two days. Number 8,524 didn’t hurt as bad as all the rest. Maybe because that piece isn’t one that came from the depths of my soul like all the other ones that have been rejected. I don’t believe it’s because I’m getting better at handling rejection–because I’m not–but maybe it’s because I didn’t have a lot of “me” invested in it. I suppose there is something to my thought process about rejections not hurting if I write something other than memoir/personal essay.
As I sit writing this, an email notification from Submittable popped up on my screen. I opened the email fully expecting to add rejection #8,526 (based on current trends) to my current list. I entered Fusion Art’s 6th Annual Waterscape Competition for May 2021 and the exhibit starts tomorrow. So, naturally, I was prepared for the rejection letter, however, the letter was congratulatory in nature.
It seems like every time I threaten to throw in the towel and quit writing, and submitting photography, is when an acceptance creeps into my inbox. Thanks to this little dance, I have a couple of routes I can take: 1) Keep submitting work and be positive that an acceptance will come, or 2) Keep submitting work, get upset that my work will inevitably be rejected all the time and threaten to quit this whole thing altogether. Ideally, I should choose option one, but for those who know me, I apologize, but we all know I’m still going to be in the option two cycle since that’s who I am as a human being at this moment in time.
However, tonight and maybe tomorrow, or at least until the next rejection, I’m going to bask in my only acceptance in the last few months and let myself think that I really am good enough for a little while.
I recently discovered that I’m Googleable. I don’t mean that a Google search finds my social media accounts, because it does, but I mean that with my name and possibly one other keyword, my work is found in the first page of Google search results. I think I was just as excited as Steve Martin’s character, Navin Johnson, from The Jerk when he found his name in the phonebook.
The Truth in Writing
The truth is a sticky subject. There’s the truth as you know it, the truth as someone else knows it, and then there is the indisputable truth as fact. The mind has a funny way of remembering things and people in certain light. I’m prepared to make the statement that there is not a single, solitary individual that remembers the “truth” of a situation as it factually happened. That being said, do I think people are big, fat liars when they paint pictures of themselves and their lives in memoir that aren’t factually accurate? Not necessarily. Do I think people who aren’t completely honest in their autobiographies are big, fat liars? That is more likely. So what exactly is the difference between the two genres and why does that difference matter?
The difference is simply this, one deals with fact and facts that can be fact-checked, and the other deals with a person’s memories, and sometimes memory isn’t always a hard-lined account of situations and/or people. Now, does that mean that the memoir author has a blank check when it comes to fact and truth? For me, that’s an emphatic no. As memoirists, we have a duty to tell our truth with as much fact and legitimate truth as humanly possible. Sometimes we can remember small things wrong. Or we get some things mixed up. It happens. But we should never intend to deceive our readers. If you plan to market deception, then fiction is for you.
This goes for the stories we not only write, but tell. You can withhold details of your life without being deceptive, because sometimes things are nobody’s business but your own until you decide to share; you can’t change your narrative to fit your mood or to sell a story. The people who know you and your previously told story shouldn’t have to decide which version you give them as being true. That puts your supportive readers in a difficult position, and as an author and even a friend, you should never do that. Your audience shouldn’t feel betrayed by the truth you tell versus the truth you write.
Your readers, who aren’t privy to your stories until they’ve read them, have nothing else invested in you as a person. To them, you are an author, and you might be a good one. Your story might be incredibly compelling, and as your audience, they will be super excited for more work from you. But that doesn’t mean they will be forgiving if it comes out later that you lied or embellished your truth to make a buck.
Bottom line–write with integrity as a memoirist.