Not Easy Being Green
by Brian Plante
You write a neat little monster story and send it off to the 1001 Creepy Critters anthology. A month later it comes back, rejected. Later, you learn that another writer, a friend of yours, sold a story to that market. Are you: (A) overjoyed with your friend's success, or (B) green with envy?
We'll assume that I'm not the only one who answered "B" here. Jealousy isn't necessarily a bad thing with respect to your writing. I'm not unhappy with friends that sell to markets that reject my work. They're still friends. Rather, it's myself that I'm unhappy with. Unhappy that my name isn't on the contents page. I know the editor didn't pick my friend's story over mine for no good reason. Surely I must be doing something wrong, or at least not as good as the other guy.
You've probably been told that you shouldn't take rejection personally, but let's face it --if you fancy yourself a writer, you have to have a little bit of an ego. You must imagine that other people you don't even know will want to read what you've written. Maybe you even come to believe some readers will want to pay for your precious pearls. If, instead, you resign yourself to rejection by reasoning that the editors are right and maybe you're really not as good as the other writers, then perhaps you're just not cut out for this sort of thing.
Jealousy can be a great motivator. Writing is a solitary activity, and jealousy reminds me that I am competing with other people out there in the marketplace and must do the best that I possibly can. Sometimes that other guy is a writer I know. Sometimes not. I get jealous of Dean Koontz, too. Jealousy makes me want to work harder, and do better on the next story. I want to be able to hold my own with my friends and not have them pass me by. I want to turn the tables and make them jealous of me. A little competition is a good thing.
There are other motivators besides jealousy. The joy of writing, the satisfaction of seeing your name in print, fame, and money (hah, a joke if you're writing short stories). Maybe you were told you'd never make it as a writer and getting published is justification. Anything that keeps you going and trying to improve your craft is a useful tool. Use it. Not all champions play to win; some play not to lose. Whatever works for you.
So, if I read your next story in some big name market that bounces everything I send them, I'm happy for you. Really, I am. Just don't expect me to be too enthusiastic about it. I'll catch up with you next time.
Copyright © 1996 Brian Plante, first appeared in The New Jersey Graveline , August 1996.