An ugly metaphor

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Regarding writing

“Sorry it’s not quite what we’re looking for at the moment.”

I’ve decided that being a writer is a bit like being Rocky…

Being a writer is like going 15 rounds with an unstoppable leviathan; when you’re a writer, particularly when you’re unpublished, but even when you have some credits under your belt, you seem to be engaged in combat against an opponent who, let’s face it, is faster, stronger, fitter and more experienced than you.

We’ll call that opponent The Establishment rather than Apollo Creed though.

As a writer you’re outclassed, and somewhere deep inside you know you don’t really deserve to be in the same ring as The Establishment, of course just as prevalent is the feeling in your gut that you do, a curious dichotomy that I suspect most writers can relate to. I’m great yet I’m terrible. There is no in-between.

So one day you decide you’re going to embark on your writing career, you’re going to step into the ring with The Establishment.

It doesn’t go well.

You start off with a lot of confidence, with a spring in your step; you throw a lot of punches confident that you’ll soon have your opponent flat on his back.

Only The Establishment ducks and weaves, he dances like a butterfly and those punches—those stories—that you thought were winners, well it turns out they were poor, ill thought out, badly formatted, not nearly good enough, or just plain unlucky, not what publishers were looking for, the 25th best story when they were only looking for 24….
So you haven’t laid a glove on The Establishment but now it’s his turn, and no amount of evasive manoeuvres can prevent you taking hit after hit, rejection after rejection, punch after punch.

You stagger back; hurt, humiliated, yet somehow still on your feet. Now all your grand dreams of landing a knockout blow in the first round evaporate, and you realise the truth. The Establishment is better than you, and so, like Rocky, you understand that there’s only one strategy open to you. Stay on your feet and slog it out.

Round after round, punch after punch, rejection after rejection. You write story after story, submission after submission, flailing around like a fool, throwing jab after jab in the wild hope of getting lucky, and all the while The Establishment keeps punching you, connecting every time, and every hit makes you waver just a little bit more, but every hit also makes you more stubborn into the bargain, makes you all the more determined to stay on your feet.

And occasionally, just occasionally, you manage to land a jab on your opponent. A story accepted by an indie publisher, a rejection that comes along with really positive feedback, and though they’re minor victories, little more than glancing blows, they give you hope.

So you stay on your feet, bloodied but unbowed, you hurt, and sometimes you don’t know if you can go on, sometimes you think it would just be easier to give up, call it quits and stagger out of the ring whilst you still can.

And probably a lot of writers do throw in the towel, and I don’t think anyone can criticise them for this, because it’s really hard to keep taking the punches.

But the rest keep going. A crafty jab, a left hook, a right uppercut; a flash fiction, a short story, a novel, enduring the pummelling you get in return because you know, you know, that if you can just stay on your feet, if you can just keep swinging, one of these days, be it through skill or just plain dumb luck, one of these days you’ll really connect, and not a glancing blow, ones of these days you’ll make The Establishment stagger, you’ll make them bleed, and if you can do it once you can do it twice, and if you can do it twice you can do it three times.

And maybe you’ll deliver a knockout blow, and maybe you won’t, but at the very least, like Rocky, win lose or draw, when you walk out of that ring you’ll do so with your head held high.

It is a shame about the cauliflower ears though…


“Yay I sold a story!”

  1. […] can produce. Of course this always assumes you don’t give up after your first few rejections. I’ve talked about rejection before however, so for the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that you’re the stubborn as a […]

  2. […] I once equated writing with boxing, and I still think it’s a good analogy. Rejections are like punches and you have to learn to take them, or throw in the towel. Just as there are many talented people who never start writing, similarly there are many talented writers who give up. I won’t ever denigrate anyone who quits the fight. Until you’ve received rejection after rejection for stories you’ve poured hours of work into, put your blood sweat and tears into, you can’t understand how much of a punch to the gut a rejection is, and plenty of times—especially when I’ve had a little run of rejections—I’ve thought “Sod this for a game of soldiers” and seriously considered knocking the whole thing on the head. Of course for me such feelings thankfully don’t last, and usually within a few days I’ve either sent a story off to another market, or started writing something else (or sometimes both!) […]

  3. […] get me wrong. Rejection is horrible, I’ve talked before about how being a writer is a bit like being a boxer getting pummelled by punch after punch, but can you imagine a boxer who never takes a hit? Some […]

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