Sunday, January 24, 2010

He's Just Not that Into You

I recently saw the movie He's Just Not that Into You, and it got me thinking about my writing. I know you're already wondering where I'm going with this, but trust me, there is a connection.

In the movie, the protagonist Gigi realizes that the reason guys weren't calling her back or asking her on a second date was not because of some bizarre male dating strategy she must decode. The ugly truth was: they just weren't all that into her. The movie's title, based on a line of dialogue from Sex in the City, becomes a mantra for Gigi as she makes her way through the ups and downs of dating.

So what does the mantra "He's just not that into you" have to do with writing? Well, oftentimes, I find myself getting obsessed about the craziness of writing... and eventually getting published. How is it that a story I wrote "on the fly" gets accepted for publication within 24 hours but another story I've polished for months keeps getting rejected. Conspiracy theories immediately pop up in my twisted mind. This is when I reread a passage from one of my favorite books on writing: Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost.

According to Provost, if you're not writing well enough to get published, then you are not qualified to judge the merit of your own work. "The writing's just not good enough" is the aspiring writer's version of "He's just not that into you." Sounds harsh, I know, but this concept is actually very liberating.

In Provost's own words:

"If I told you that your writing is fine, but that the peculiarities of editors and other machinations of the publishing world have conspired to leave you out, I would be telling you that there is no hope... But I'm telling you that constant rejection means you are not writing well enough yet, and that means you have control of the situation. You, not them. All you have to do is work harder and study more and keep an open mind about your writing. Be persistent, be humble, and be curious, and your writing dreams will come true."

In other words: the publishing world isn't out to get you, or me, or any of us writers. It's just that the writing's not all that good enough. Yet.

The only thing you have to do is make it better.

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