Learning from spiders

Let's us start off by saying that rejection sucks. It sucks big time. Nobody likes to be told "no."  Nobody enjoys sending off their manuscript and seeing it wing right back via return email.

But it's part of the writing life. Frankly it's not nearly as scary (to me) as standing up in front of crowd to audition. I watch actors do this and think they are immensely brave. I watch singers and other musicians place themselves alone on a stage and pour out their hearts and know that I could never do that.

As a writer, I just send a polite email, with attachment, these days to various editors. Some stories come right back. Some sit around for months and then come back. And a few, huzzah, find a home in print or on the web. But I'm safe, and isolated, and far away from that moment of rejection when it occurs. So that's OK. It's not in my face. It's not personal.

Recently somebody said to me that they'd never send anything to a company because that person got a rejection from that company several years ago. My response was: "Try again, like Robert the Bruce."

Which got a blank stare.  So here's the story of Robert and the spider. It's something all small Scottish children learn and probably led to far too many charges down the Highland hills. But it's still a good story for writers.

As the legend has it, Robert the Bruce had lost a battle and was hiding out, considering new career options in the 14th century, when he observed a spider spinning a web. Six times it tried, six times it failed to anchor its web, but, the seventh time, it managed to land itself properly and set up its trap for flies. So Robert rose up and went out to beat the English, eventually becoming the king of Scotland. 

Now, historians (who tend to get sticky with the facts) have suggested that this was a make-believe fable from Sir Walter Scot. Others have blamed Black Douglas for the story.

Writers, at least fictioneers like you and me, know a good tale doesn't need to secure its web on the pillars of stone cold truth.  It just needs to leap into the unknown and, whether it sticks the first time or the seventh time, it will eventually stick. Which is why we ignore rejection and keep emailing it out.

After all, we're far more persistent and patient than 14th century warlords and garden-variety arachnids.


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