Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rejection / Selection

On the T9 dictionary that's universal on the 12-button keypad of cellphones, 735328466 spells both "rejection" and "selection." It's a little antithetical coincidence that I discovered today. Ordinarily it would be an amusing curiosity that wouldn't really mean anything at all. But it's reflective of two unexpected events that happened today and, well, one shouldn't let these coincidences pass by unremarked.

First, on rejection, which is really how I got started on this thread. I was sending Sean Uy an SMS message about a message that was popped into my mailbox today. It was a note from Dean Alfar. Apparently, my submission to his planned anthology of speculative fiction didn't quite make the cut. His letter in full:

Thank you for your submission. I'm sorry to say that I am passing on the story. While "Runeworld" had much merit, especially both the main conceit and the characterization, I found the ending weak and rather apt. I do commend you on the way you wrote it - I liked your prose.

I hope that you continue to write though and not let this get you down. There will be many other opportunities for gifted writers like you.

Strange as it may seem, I'm actually quite happy to receive this rejection notice. Oh, I'm sure I would have been equally happy if my entry were to make its way into the collection, but I know I would be happy in a different way. I'm happy because this is my first real rejection slip, and we all know that writers must accumulate a fair amount of these before they can be called real writers. I'm happy because someone has read through my work and taken the time to point out its strengths and weaknesses. I'm happy because, shallow as it may seem, it validates my existence as a writer.

It's much better than being ignored altogether, which is how I felt with my other submissions. It's quite frustrating when the editors or judges don't tell you why you didn't make the cut. None of them have even bothered to let me know that they received the submission. But that's professionalism in literature for you.

I realize that I have many unexpressed misgivings about the local literary community, and this little incident has actually given it a focal point. As an unpublished and struggling (in a literary, not financial, sense) writer, the local literary community has the feel of an old boys' club. It seems to me that you not only have to write in a certain way, but you have to act in a certain way and speak in a certain way and think in a certain way and associate with people in a certain way. Without the proper social connections, it's nigh impossible to get any serious critique of your work let alone get published. And without any serious and objective criticism, it's equally impossible to improve your craft as writer.

For an untutored writer like me, that feedback is essential. Writing is a hard craft. Some days I really do feel like an idiot savant. I have an image of what I want to write but it just doesn't come out the way I want it to when I set fingers to keyboard. The mental disconnect between what I want to express and how I actually express it is very frustrating. Ah, really, so many more years and so many more words to go.

So in a way, I'm glad I took on some other means to make a living. Because I can't make a living as a writer. Because I know I'm not good enough as a writer. Not yet anyway. And really, maybe not in the Philippines.

Then again, not too many writers can claim to have made $800 per article printed. Which I have. Of course, it wasn't artsy-fartsy stuff. Yes, I'm sourgraping.

On the flip side, selection. Today I got a call from a headhunter about a possible job with a multinational company. The call came from out of the blue. I did not apply. I did not even leave my number. These were people I had never heard of.

So yes, that was a bit flattering.

I don't have the job yet, of course. There's still a long interview process ahead, but it's comforting to know that if I set my mind to it there's something that I'm good at that's there for the taking.

On the other hand, now that the possibility of returning to corporate life is looming, I'm beginning to wonder: do I want to? Deep down inside, I know I have something good right here in Dumaguete. It's not glamorous, it's not prestigious, it's not financially rewarding. But I'm happy here. And there's the promise of building something that's my own.

Ah, questions, questions. I'll cross the bridge when I get there.

In the meantime, another Nethack picture.


  1. don't know if you've read this

    might be a good start

  2. Yes, the local literary scene sometimes feels like an old boy's club. A lot of amateur writers sometimes feel that all praise and emulation goes towards this style of the grumpy old men ('scuse the euphemism).

    Fortunately, three things are allowing us to broaden our literary horizons at this point. The first is that the veterans of Filipino literature are trying out new styles (or, sadly, dying off -- whichever approach they prefer). The second is that, in their frustration to break into "the old boys club", new authors are studying their styles and incorporating the better elements into their own work. The third is that there are people who actively work towards promoting and recognizing new literary styles, and who help cultivate a new crop of writers in the process.

    There's a certain level of frustration in the field for amateur writers right now, but it only indicates that the field is still young to begin with. We can take comfort in the fact that, as the number of local readers increases, we'll be honing our styles right alongside them.

  3. Hey, you're getting better at this. I wish I could do action scenes like that. My pictures are always static. I have these scenes in my mind but I just don't have the skill (or the mental discipline to learn such skill) to put it into paper. Real cool.

  4. Thanks, all for your comments.

    H: I think it's not just a matter of getting it published (self-publication has been around for some time), but the recognition of your peers that's important.

    S: Exactly. I had another G word in mind, and grumpy ain't it. Hee hee.

    J: Thank you! I'm reviewing old comics from the 60s, e.g., Jack Kirby, to try to capture the more dynamic figures via exaggerated poses.