19 May 20112 April 2012 Main Posts / Reading / Culture On rejection and the comfort of Nietzsche Clare Strahan Described as ‘real life opera’, a beautiful young woman is jilted and throws herself off a balcony in her wedding dress. Blessedly, she is saved. I find myself hoping she doesn’t become a writer and betroth herself to art, because in this culture, cruel (or polite) rejection is all part of the courting process and jilting par for the course. What doesn’t kills us, makes us stronger. Perhaps Nietzsche meant it, but sometimes what doesn’t kill us grinds us down until we wish we were dead. Sometimes every inspirational story of the painfully large numbers of rejections traditionally received by well-loved authors/books feels like another great boulder to cart around, McGonagall-like. I’m not that strong. I need an income (desperately). I’m too old. I’m delusional. Nothing good anyone has ever said about my writing and editing is true. The world just doesn’t understand me. Damn it, the world doesn’t know what it’s missing out on! No, no, I’m small-fry suffering delusions of grandeur, too exhausted and broke to go on, past it, etc. Well, I over-dramatise, but I’m managing my latest rejection in the Bernard Black tradition. According to the internet, phenomenally prolific and successful writer Judy Blume once said: I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent. Determination? Hard work? Gah! Really? But, hang on. I am determined and, though some who know me well may not believe it, capable of hard work. Look how hard I’ve worked at whinging about being an emerging writer! I mean: here I am, nose to the grindstone. As for talent, I’m coming to the conclusion that this is a verdict I am not qualified to judge. So what’s the alternative? I’ve been a dispatch clerk, receptionist, secretary, waitress, check-out ‘chick’, cleaner, shop assistant, barista … and at this stage in the game, a non-wordy, non-creative, non-arty job seems like a recipe for mental health issues. Seriously. And, as Nietzche said: Art is the proper task of life. So there is no choice but to persevere? To chop up more furniture to feed the fire? To continue to rob Peter to pay Paul in the hope that Paul (or Peter) will never foreclose? Ach! If only I didn’t have an anti-capitalist/western-poverty mindset and could attract the endless wealth floating invisibly just inches above my head. At least then I could afford to self-publish my children’s book … my poems … my fairytales, even while I cling to my hopes that a real publisher will publish my novels. So, I wonder: is this about money? It’s a rare bird who makes their fortune out of creative writing. Why kid myself? It’s about recognition, validation … isn’t it? After all, as Mr Neitzsche said … Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul. Well…I’m pretty sure my egoism is in healthy shape, so when I rise in nobility and finally get my great awards, I can only hope I have the grace and humour to accept them with the humility of a Spike Milligan: Oh, but wait! First I’ll have to contribute a brilliant, memorable body-of-work to the world? Bloody hell. Well, Mr Neitzche? What words of wisdom for this dilemma? Character is determined more by the lack of certain experiences than by those one has had. Well, thank you, Friedrich. Clare Strahan Clare Strahan is a two-time novelist with Allen & Unwin publishers, long-ago contributing editor to Overland, and teaches in the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing Associate Degree. More by Clare Strahan Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 11 November 202211 November 2022 Main Posts On the last day of Subscriberthon, our amazing online editor gives you one last (very good) reason to subscribe Editorial team What's in store for the last day of Subscriberthon? First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202210 November 2022 Main Posts On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, our favourite editor-duo give you reason #1002 to subscribe to Overland Editorial team What's in store for the second-last day of Subscriberthon?