by John Chizoba Vincent
I don’t care to know how many times you have been rejected by magazines and online journals. I don’t care because it is normal to writers. I don’t care to know how many publication houses your manuscripts have gone to and they bounced back to you, dirty and rough. I know how it hurts because I have been in the same shoes as you are right now. I have been rejected severally and one publisher or editor once threw my manuscript on me. He said I was writing rubbish, what he could not completely comprehend and I knelt down, begging him to publish it. He walked me out from his office. The only option I had was to sell some of my manuscripts to get one of my books published.
An editor in one of the publishing houses in Lagos told me that I won’t go far in writing if I am not living abroad. Yes, I understood him very well. It is easier to push from Abroad to Nigeria as a writer than to start or push from Nigeria. To become a writer here in Nigeria is an endless torment, an endless dreadful torture because no one cares about what you have written or what you have done. Your manuscripts remain in your shelf, no leave no transfer.
Editors will tell you what they told Kenneth Grahame “An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” This might possibly be the most whimsical description ever of the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger in the best-selling children’s tale The Wind in the Willows.
Kenneth Grahame could have given up when he was told that, but he never did. He kept pushing until that book was published. So, I don’t care to know what they have told you as a writer, poet, author or novelist, don’t mind them just push a little more. You don’t need to write like Chimamanda Adichie, you don’t need to horn your voice like Habila Helon, you don’t need to possess special strength or smoothness of tale like Tomi Adeyemi, Buchi Emecheta before you can be published and; you don’t have to sound like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chris Okigbo, and many of them to be known.
You just have to be yourself. Be your own weak self. Learn the art and keep moving on your own pace. You will be rejected, they will rape off your sanity, abuse will come but never relent in your pursuit of happiness and joy in that thing that gives you joy.
Writing is a lifestyle you have to imbibe in. No one sees your struggles, they only want the result. You never knew how Chimamanda Adichie got to where she is now. You never knew the struggles and pains she had to go through writing those books. She didn’t wake up one day to become this famous, she started from somewhere. She had sleepless nights, she was abused also, she was brave enough to stand on her ground.
If you are a writer, before you write, learn the rules of the language you deploy. Ignorance is not poetic licence.
Herman Melville‘s masterpiece, Moby-Dick, was turned down by multiple publishers, some of whom had creative suggestions for the author. Peter J. Bentley of Bentley & Son Publishing House wrote: “First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”
Melville nevertheless got his tale of futile revenge published – by none other than Richard Bentley, of Bentley & Son. (The American edition debuted less than a month later.) That said, the author still made some serious sacrifices, paying for the typesetting and plating himself.
Ernest Hemingway was also rejected. The Sun Also Rises is perhaps Hemingway’s most widely read work, but not everyone was a fan. In 1925, Moberley Luger of publisher Peacock & Peacock wrote to the 26-year-old author: “If I may be frank — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other. Your bombastic, dipsomaniac, where-to-now characters had me reaching for my own glass of brandy.”
It’s a harsh assessment—though from what we know of Hemingway, it proposes a scenario that is not unlikely either. Still, this rejection hardly damaged his career. The novel would be published by Scribner’s the following year.
Don’t quit as a writer, there are many people out there waiting to read you. There are many stories you still need to write because if you don’t write it, no one else will. Remain who you are – A Writer!