Someone recently brought to my attention the fact that this week was Freelance Writers Appreciation Week. I use the word was because the week is now almost over; another weekend is upon us.
My first thought was that some poor, struggling freelance writer, feeling sorely underappreciated by editors who persist in rejecting his or her work, had come up with the idea for the special week, no doubt in collaboration with other wannabes in his or her writers critique group.
I actually don’t know who came up with the idea for the week-long commemoration or what the underlying motivation was. It did, however, set me to thinking.
Every freelance writer, at some point, feels unappreciated or underappreciated. No one but another writer knows what goes into their business. Other people–nonwriters–seem to think that precise, mind-enlightening, soul-stirring, and emotion-laden writing just flows effortlessly from the writer’s pen (or, to be technologically correct in this twenty-first century world, computer).
They don’t see the inner struggles to discover the precise words, research the subject matter, gain inspiration for one’s own soul, or get one’s emotions stirred to the point of being willing to share those most intimate feelings with readers, risking opposing arguments and even outright rejection for the slight chance that their work might actually be published. I think it was Hemingway who quipped that writing was easy (as many people seem to think); you just sit down and open a vein.
Nonwriters see only the author’s published article or short story or book. They don’t see the struggle to find an appropriate venue for the work. They don’t see the efforts exerted, once that venue is discovered, to impress the editor or publisher enough to risk his firm’s money to publish the work. They don’t see the countless rejections that come between completion of the work and an eventual acceptance. Nor do they see the inner struggles of the author as he rereads the rejections time and time again to see if they contain hidden somewhere a faint ray of hope for his or her writing.
“The editor addressed it to me by name; it wasn’t just a form rejection. But, then again, mail merge can do a lot with form letters to make them look personal!”
“She said that it was a promising theme, a good concept. Does that mean that with a little tweaking it will be acceptable, maybe even publishable? Or was she just trying to let me down kindly?”
“The letter said, ‘Try us again.’ Does that mean what it says? Do they really like my writing and want to see more of it? Or are they just being nice, really hoping that they never see another thing from me?”
Neither do nonwriters see the frustrations that result when editors don’t respond to queries, proposals, or completed manuscripts. They don’t reply by the response time stated in Writer’s Market. They don’t respond to follow-up queries after that time frame. They don’t even acknowledge having received the submission or query. They leave the poor writer hanging.
And the writer’s imagination is left to produce innumerable reasons for the lack of response. Some of them are reasonable (e.g., “The editor is on vacation–had a baby–was fired”). Some of them are downright conspiratorial (e.g., “The editor is bigoted against Christians or conservatives or polka-dotted people”).
Nonwriters don’t see the long wait that often follows all the work that is involved in producing the finished piece, submitting it, and receiving an acceptance before finally getting paid for it. Hoping for “on acceptance,” the freelancer generally must accept “on publication.” And that, in practical terms, usually means some unstated time after–often well after–publication. And when it does come, it’s about the same amount that Mark Twain was making back in the nineteenth century.
Yes, I’ve been there. Many times. Often.
So what keeps a frustrated, struggling freelancer going, returning to his or her writing in spite of the frustrations and disappointments? Are we gluttons for punishment or masochists with some strange affinity for getting hurt, disappointed, rejected, and being unappreciated?
No, it’s “The Call.” One who is called does it because of that call–regardless of the outcome. Check what some of the greatest writers have said about writing. Many of them said that they would keep on writing even if no one bought or read their work. Because it’s a calling. Those who quit apparently either weren’t called or didn’t obey the call.
Inevitably, every time I begin to feel discouraged with the results of my writing, frustrated with editors who don’t recognize masterful writing when they see it or who refuse to send a simple e-mail acknowledging receipt of a submission (“Got it. Will get back to you.”), or unappreciated by the reading population, God has a way of reminding me of His calling for me.
Just this morning, in fact, while reading Psalm 37, He spoke these words:
“Trust in the Lord . . . and verily thou shalt be fed” (v. 3)
“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (v. 5).
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7).
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. . . . Though he fall [have his work rejected by publishers?], he shall not be utterly cast down” (v. 24).
“Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee . . .” (v. 34).
Such patient waiting and resting and trusting is definitely not easy. Neither does it condone sloth or laziness. I must do my part–all the work involved in the writing and marketing process that others never see–and then trust Him to do what I cannot. The work is my job; the results are His.
Freelance writer appreciation begins with the writer’s appreciation of his or her calling and faithfulness to it. God will take care of any other appreciation, so we don’t need to worry about it!