reflections: road less traveled

A story that wrote itself is here, if you’d like to hop over and read it.

There’s a bit of reflective commentary I’d like to add. If not anything, it may perhaps help restore faith in one’s own work.

An online magazine had called for some articles/stories with a theme (that am not going to spill here for obvious reasons)  and a small idea crept in. Days passed and I realized last minute that I was cutting it close and debated whether it was even worth attempting fleshing out this idea. Figured I would make an honest effort and tried that afternoon. It didn’t flesh the way I wanted and so I gave up.

That night, as I was waiting for my son to finish his homework and hit bed, my mind went back to digging up this doc. ..and just like that, the story turned a few more words and phrases and when it hit midnight, I was quite pleased with it. It was still unedited and I decided I’d give it a once over in the morning before sending it out. Which I did.

I heard back from them the next day. With a ton of edits. The redness along the word document tracker changes was FULL. I felt like being in grade school and submitting my history report and getting a zero on it! Not funny.

My knee jerk reaction was – WHAT THE HELL! (I used the rare F word, under my breath too) I shut it down and went about my business. After a couple of hours, I opened it again, with the intention of giving it a fair review.

A few minor edits on typos and grammar I nodded my head. After all, it was an emotional piece. One that wrote itself, and when am caught up in the moment of the story, some phrases would stay phrases. It’s a style. It’s my style. The more I read the edits, the more it got clearer that there was a huge gnawing gap between how the phrases and words I used were meant to be read and how they were being understood. Understandably, this was not personal, but more of lenience on how much a publisher or editor would allow the  author’s voice to come through.

Since am not a publisher or editor, I cannot and will not comment on  how they do their job.

However, I am a writer (if i can be bold about it) – as in, I write and folks read me and I believe that I have a style that speaks for itself and am readable. Not bad at all. Not great, and have ways to go, but most definitely not a beginner.

I then thought about next steps. It seemed like too much work to try to convince the other side of my style. Grammar or content or editing was do-able.Plus this was not an article. It was a story. My story. The characters and story and where I wanted it to go was in my head. No one else can see it more clearly than I do.

So without much explanation or defense, I politely wrote back saying maybe this would not work out and I was going to back out of getting this published. It made sense to me as each publication has their voice and they will not (and need not) change or adapt to all that comes their way. I understand that.

I get a reply explaining their actions, corrections, questions drawing me into discussing and shredding every line. I reply simply and minimally, all the while maintaining a pleasant tone that it’s perfectly alright and that we really weren’t a match. we were adults in a professional setting and we could agree to disagree and go our ways.

I get a quick scathing reply. Almost defensive. Bordering on unpleasantness and wishing me good luck getting this piece published by anyone else.

That hurt mildly. Standing by one’s principles is all fine and dandy. But to actually come out and openly ridicule and sneer at someone’s work was absolutely uncalled for. Not classy at all. Refusing to fall for the bait, I move on, instead choosing to vent a bit to a couple of good friends.

The next morning, I get another “follow up” email from the other partner and another round of shredding happens. This one slightly nastier than the other, defensive, verbose and un-necessary explanations on how they run their magazine.

By then I had lost all respect for the said publication and people who run online magazines. It was certainly unfortunate, but all it takes is one such incident to create a bad taste in one’s mouth.

My take: 

I love my pieces. Some more than the others. They are my babies after all. I loved this travel story. I loved the way it panned out and I loved the two characters. One was a figment of my imagination, and one was loosely based on someone I met. I loved how the story got tied into the journey/travel theme.

I posted it on my blog, and have received many positive comments, got a fair number of retweets and shares. The average reader matters. Some stories resonate more with the audience than some else. When you create form the heart, it pays for itself.

What’s in it for you? 

The next time when you are put under the microscope for judging, and let’s face it, we all get judged at different times by different people,  remember this:

1. Stick to your guts.

2. Be open to criticism but believe in your worth and your talent.

3. Give the judge the benefit of doubt.

4. Never get drawn into an argument when you find the other person attacking you personally, ridiculing you or sneering at you. Step back. The fight is not worth your self-respect.

5. Believe in yourself, and behave like you do. Coz unless you do, no one else will.

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6 replies on “reflections: road less traveled”
  1. says: My3

    Interesting point of view. I liked the last point. It really does hit home due to other things swirling around me. It is nice to see it on paper and to strengthen my spinal cord and resolve. Thanks

  2. It’s only one person’s opinion. There are always other markets.

    My favorite rejection of all (so far) was from Woman’s Day whose editor wrote me a fairly patronizing note telling me their readers would never have found my piece interesting to them…a dark/funny essay on the 10 things you should never tell your friend who is getting divorced. I sold it to a Canadian women’s magazine and won a National Magazine Award for humor for it.

    An essay I recently submitted to the NYT and More (so far) is still making the rounds. There’s always more to say, and clinging too ferociously to the success of only one piece means you’ve invested too much time and/or ego in it. Move on.

    1. says: rads

      Hey, nice seeing you here!

      Absolutely, I agree on perspectives. ..and No, I have not invested too much time or ego on this. I have moved on from that spot when I refused to answer, but when I write a post on it, I wanted this to be an assertive one. One where I showed where I came from and where I am going.

      I don’t write on writing here, felt like a post on it would be appropriate and insightful. To me and to ones who read me.

  3. says: sandhyak

    Whoa! I am yet to finish reading that piece, but you WRITE SO WELL! No one can take away that credit from you. Good that you stood up for yourself. Everyone has their own style and good editors should be able to recognize it.

    1. says: rads

      Thank you, you are my long time-reader and you yourself write so eloquently, so love that you say it 🙂

      Yeah, was slightly disappointed that they couldn’t pick on nuances, the kind that can’t really be explained. You either get it or you don’t…

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