Rock singer Tom Petty might try to persuade you that “the waiting is the hardest part.” Though I can say that I would agree with Tommy on a number of other subjects, on this front, anyway, I am much more inclined to side with Simon and Garfunkel. For me, at least, the hardest part in the writing journey is “the sound of silence.”
The sound of silence cruises the back alleys of otherwise ordinary life. And as an author who is willing to put their work out there for public scrutiny, it is just one more in the long list of ways that we can be rejected.
I am fortunate to be involved in a writing support group (geez, that makes it sound like we have issues, doesn’t it? As in, “hello, my name is Beth. And I’m an author”). All of the people in my group are talented, supportive, and brave. We have all sent ourselves – in the form of our writing – out into the world to be judged. A few of my fellow writers have already commented about this here on the blog. Several of them have received back the standard rejection: “sorry, not for us.” A few of them have gotten back considerably longer, thoughtful responses with personal notes from agents with suggestions, positive input and genuine well wishes. Then there’s the happy flip side: requests for partials, fulls, one-pagers, book deals, the stuff we all dream about.
I think I could deal with any one of these responses (certainly that last one!) Instead, I have had a steady stream of….nothing. Nada, zilchy, just – you guessed it – silence. Of course, I understand that the cogs of the great publishing houses turn, and spin they must. To try and answer every query, every submission, every everything would be the equivalent of publishing anarchy. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that, nor the man/woman/will power. Okay, I get that. Hey, I’m a sympathetic gal that way.
Still, what we have here is the writer’s equivalent of sitting by the phone waiting for “the call.” You know the one, from that gorgeous so-and-so that you gave your number to eight days, thirteen hours and fifty-two seconds before? (Uh, not that I’m obsessive like that or anything.) Yeah. Not gonna happen. This is when my neurotic self kicks in. I re-read my submission. Did I follow the guidelines? Yup. Did I type precisely 300 words, and not accidentally 301? Yup. For the love of the Lord, did I remember to double space? Loud sigh of relief…yup. So what? What then did I do wrong? And the answer, my friends, is: nothing. That’s right. The sound of silence is just another way writers grow and improve and – are you ready for this – toughen up. Because it takes a thick skin to even think about entering into this profession. It ain’t for sissies.
Ironically enough, my most recent success also came via a tortuously similar experience. I followed all the guidelines – then fastidiously double and triple checked that I had followed all the guidelines – and sent the piece off. The decision date came…and then went. Okay, I told myself, at least I’ve got myself a respectable piece to post on my blog (please excuse this interruption for a little shameless self-promotion: http://www.bethnbijoux.blogspot.com/ ) I let the matter go, and lo and behold, two days later I received a voicemail message – the piece had been selected! Success! Which just goes to show, the “sound of silence” can even lead to a far more frightening noise: me, belting out my very own rendition of Handel's “Hallelujah Chorus” (just ask my neighbors). Can I get an Amen on that?