My daughter is a senior in college majoring in journalism at a big University. She is always telling me how she hates to write because she doesn't like the negative feedback she gets on her papers from certain professors. They are the ones that don't bother to point out the good things about her writing but go out of their way to be negative and tell her everything she did wrong. I understand that their job is to teach but often their comments are just their opinion and their approach often feels like a kick in the belly. They get an "F" in the "build me up" department. I try to support my daughter when she calls me in tears feeling like a failure. I give her the "it's just one persons opinion" speech. Over the years, I've given it many times. She has grown up showing horses and knows how it feels to be judged, so she is not thin skinned. You can preform a perfect pattern but if the judge likes paint horses better than appaloosas and you're on the appy, you probably won't win that class.
Writing, if grammatically done correct, is just a matter of personal opinion. True some writers have the ability to paint a more colorful picture and spice things up more than others, but that doesn't mean they are better writers. We all like different flavors, some like it hot and some do not and that's what makes us unique recipes.
Where I'm going with this is that I made one of those "kicked in the stomach" calls to my daughter today. I received a rejection letter for a short manuscript that I submitted two months ago. I have written articles over the years and submitted them to various publications. I have published several and been well paid for those pieces and I have gotten the dreaded "We're sorry but this doesn't meet our editorial needs at this time." I can handle those kind of rejection letters. They don't say I'm a lousy writer or my story looks like it was written by a first grader, it just says that they don't satisfy that publishers appetite at that time. But this one was different. I believe that the editor thought they were being helpful, but I didn't submit my manuscript asking for a grade or review.
I'm a self published author of a very personal book that I recently wrote called "A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter" . I didn't even try to submit this book to a publishing company, I just published with a print-on-demand company so I didn't have to deal with someone else telling me how to make it a better story. This book is my story not theirs. It's a true story and I tried to paint a descriptive picture to allow the reader to walk along beside me on my very personal journey and feel what I felt. The rejection letter I just received was for one of those personal stories. The letter started out by thanking me for submitting. The editor went on to say they found it a "pretty good read". Well there was the first little kick. Then they went on to say that they had received stronger better stories. Well that's OK, I can handle that. It's their choice to pick what they like. Then they ended with the "General Critique" (unsolicited of course). What is this, high school English class? I thought as I read the next sentence. "It stays a bit too much on the surface"...what ever that means, I thought. Another jab to the midsection. And now that I'm already in pain here it comes...wait for it..."you need to write from the heart." Wow the final kick in the gut to make me feel like I'm a loser and total failure. Wait a minute, this is my story, my emotions and my loss, how does this editor know how I felt and that I didn't write from my heart?
So I made the call to my college journalist daughter who gave me some very sound advice... "It's just their opinion Mom," she said. "That's why I don't like writing." She reminded me that I need to practice what I am always preaching to her. But it still kind of stings. But I guess I need to pick myself up and shake it off. I think I'll go bake some chocolate chip cookies. I like that flavor.
A Sacred Place, Memoirs of a Female Hunter
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and