I submitted a thing to a competition the other week. I mainly did it because I’m trying to become inured to rejection.
It’s not that I’m unused to rejection. I get rejected a lot but I usually try to avoid rejection. I always thought that rejection meant I was doing something wrong. A major lesson from my childhood was that you shouldn’t go where you’re not wanted so when I get rejected I turn around and try something different. But writers get rejected all the time. Even the greatest get rejected a lot. Sometimes the rejection means that the work isn’t quite ready yet, or the work is ready but the time isn’t right, or that you’ve sent it to the wrong person and the next one will love it, and sometimes it means that the work sucks.
I’ll never be a writer if I assume that a single rejection means that the work sucks. So I have to get used to the idea that a rejection doesn’t mean that I should stop trying. Which is why I’ve submitted to this particular competition. Because I am absolutely sure I wont go far.
Why would I be so sure? Did I submit substandard work? Not a chance. I gave it my absolute best shot. I’m just sure they don’t want me. I’m sure because there was a list of things that the submission needed to contain – fairly standard things like a query letter and a synopsis and the first 50 pages. And a head shot. Only the head shot was the first thing on the list. No one who thinks a head shot is the most important thing in a submission is going to want me.
I’m not saying that you can’t be pretty and be a good writer. I know some fantastically good looking people who are also excellent writers. What I’m saying is that if pretty is one of the qualifications then they don’t want me.
All of which leads me to the question in the title. Am I too ugly to be a writer? Which is not quite the right way to phrase the question. Anyone can write. Anyone can self publish. But I mean a specific kind of writer. I mean the kind of writer who makes a living from writing and gets at least some of that living from persuading someone else to publish them.
I know there are people who make a living from self publishing. They are talented writers but they’re also industrious and organised and I don’t think I can manage industrious and organised while also writing. I just don’t have the mental and physical reserves to do both well.
So the real question is – am I too ugly to persuade someone else to publish me?
The only answer I can come up with is maybe. There are hugely successful writers who are not pretty. No one is going to send George RR Martin or Stephen King down a catwalk. No one cares what they look like now because they’re already successful and no one cared what they looked like when they first got published because the market was different back then.
I worry because I hear whispers that traditional publishers are running scared. I hear that the rise of self publishing has made them cautious and that if you want to get published you need “Social Media Reach” and you need to be marketable. I am not marketable.