Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Yesterday at Borders I'm doing some research for a project I've been working on. Boring stuff; historical nonfiction stuff. And I notice that some of the writing is really bad. Really, really bad. And not just by my snobby English major standards. It's the sort of stuff that would barely get a C an undergrad English class. There were chapters that would have been about three words long after Sr. Cynthia had a go at them with her red pen. Cliches, run-on sentences, adverb abuse, and so on.
Now it used to be that reading this sort of stuff gave me hope. I could easily write as well as this, I'd think. I could write better. Getting published will be so easy if this is the competition! 
Sadly, I've since woken up. It's not that I've tried much to get published and failed. I'm a bit of an underachiever in the even trying department. I've got a stack of notebooks sitting next to me filled with essays and poems and seeds of novels and other ideas, but the work of cleaning them up, putting them in envelopes, and then opening up all those rejection letters... it's daunting. What I've woken up to, though, is that I'm certainly not the only girl in the pool who has had great teachers and great criticism. I'm not the only girl who knows how not to dangle a preposition if you know what I mean. There are folks who have MFAs from Harvard who can't get an agent to look at their work (or I assume there are).
In Stephen King's On Writing, he talks at great length about the rejection process. How you submit and rewrite and submit and submit some more. And then, then if you're really, really lucky, you'll get a rejection letter that contains specific criticism, something that tells you they've actually read your work. If Stephen King, who would get an A+ in Sr. Cynthia's class with no problem, had to submit his stuff dozens of times before even getting confirmation someone had read it, what can a poor schmo like me, who only got an A-, do?
So how come so much crap gets published? It's not because good and talented writers aren't out there, it's because these good and talented writers haven't found a way in yet. I think that the people who get published do so as much by writing as by schmoozing. I'm a very good writer, but a terrible schmoozer.
This doesn't mean that one day I won't maybe actually finish writing something and then set off on the quest for personalized rejection letters. It's just this ugly, daunting part of the process, and it makes me tired to think about it.
Of course, as I told a coworker today, I am luckier than about 99% of English majors, because I've found people who are willing to pay me to write. These people insist on my writing things about relay boards and receipt printers for some reason, but I write. They pay me. Lucky girl.

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