Sometimes Writing is a Lot Like Judo
I remember, many years ago, when I was still a yellow belt. My sensei and I were playing–I think he was checking to see if I was ready to test for my orange belt yet. Through a set of circumstances that I don’t remember any more, I managed to footsweep him onto the mat, then dropped and pinned him long enough to ‘win’ the ‘match’.
2013 was a lot like that. I wrote and sold my first novella. It got decent reviews. Then I sold a novelette, which got excellent reviews. Then, even in the middle of the chaos and despair of the fall, I finished a Christmas novella and, somehow, managed to keep my own black, bleak emotions out of it. That was a win in my year, because where I was was leagues away from where Shawn and Rob were.
What happened after I pinned my sensei? Well, he proceeded to remind me that, yeah, I’d worked hard, and there were some things I did well, but I still had things to work on. And then he dribbled me around the tatami for about ten minutes. Not long enough to do any real harm to my self-confidence, but enough to keep the ego swelling to a minimum. I spent more time on my back and my rear than I did on my feet. But, by the end, I moved through one of his footsweeps and kept my feet, so I did learn something. Even if I did end up spinning through the air and landing on my back right after, when he turned the failed footsweep into a hip throw. And from that, I learned to be ready to change directions and plans quickly when my first try didn’t work.
So, I got an R&R, or Revise and Resubmit, the other day. It hurt. The comments poked holes in a story that’s been something I would consider some of my best and most difficult work. It’s like that moment, where I’m still trying to figure out why I’m lying on the mats instead of standing in front of my sensei–I don’t have any memory of getting there, and I’m embarrassed that it happened at all and I have no idea how it happened.
But an R&R is better than a rejection, right? Problem is, I don’t have a clue how to tackle this and I’m wondering if my yellow belt skills are enough of a base to even get close. I’ll concede their points, but it’s a major revision that runs through the entire story. And I’ll be doing it on my own, without the editorial direction I’ve grown accustomed to when things get this intense. To be honest, it scares me.
But I can change directions. And maybe, just maybe, this is me, training for my orange belt in writing. And if I take my time, and pay attention, and beg help from all and sundry, and most of all learn from my mistakes, perhaps, when the day of my test arrives, I’ll be ready.