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Motivation in the face of certain defeat

December 22, 2012


Writing and publishing can be overwhelming. Every market is glutted with submissions and they aren’t all by Postman Pete finally gotten around to putting the final touches on that flash about clouds that look like things up in the sky. Most are written by trained and educated writers. People with real credentials, unflagging aspirations, and original pieces for the marketplace to crush or caress with spine-shuddering indifference. Winning a ticket to that circus is no easy task. It gets so difficult at times that I wonder–and am certainly not the first to do so–if this writing game is really more about perseverance than craft. Perhaps that is true of anything difficult. At least that’s what I start to think. After that, I follow a train of logic suspicious of initial conclusions, drawing me dialectically toward opposing considerations. In this second round of oppositional logic, I remember that I’ve done plenty of difficult things before and this one still seems unique. Could it be that those other things were not really difficult, that they only seemed so at the time and that writing is finally the first truly difficult task that I’ve encountered in life? No. Trust me. No. I’ve scrolled through my experiences with a cold clinical eye and know that that is not the case.  The fact remains that writing, editing, and the process of clutching up memory and imagination by the rootstraps, all that visceral stuff that is YOU clinging to it like soil, and then orchestrating it into something less personal and more transactional through the alchemy of fiction and then flinging the resulting assemblage into an arena to scrap for its life against a sea of other similar contraptions…well, there’s just something uniquely hard about that. There’s a special way that one’s motivations get taxed in that particular enterprise that is greater than the pathetic, but pathetically true confession that I get as many as three rejections a day. Ruminating the idea of motivation made me think of an adage that many use without attention to its historical context–the carrot and the stick. Most of the time, when we use the metaphor we intend for the carrot to mean an actual reward. We get a sweet morsel like the carrot while struggling through something arduous to help us get through it. But this is never how the carrot was actually used. It was only ever  dangled tantalizingly and never given to the one struggling through something. It was a reward that predicated finality. The carrot is sweet to the extent that its appearance during the struggle comes to iconically represent the end of that struggle. So here’s the catch: despite that endlessly returning sense of disappointment, there is no carrot for the writer. We secretly don’t want this struggle to end and rejection is but the stream I go a-fishing in. For those strange waters, carrots make the perfect bait.

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