Taking the Hit

I’ve talked before about the similarities between writing and martial arts, but the more I study Sanchin-Ryu, the more I appreciate it as a metaphor for writing.  (Or maybe writing is a metaphor for karate, I don’t know.)

One things I struggled with in Sanchin-Ryu is that there’s no blocking.  Oh, you learn pretty quickly to keep your hands up to guard, and there are strikes to intercept an opponent’s attack, not to mention learning to move into your opponent to disrupt their attack.  But no blocks.

Because you’re going to get hit. No matter how long you study blocking, no matter how fast you are.  Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan … they all get hit.  So we focus on acting instead of reacting.  On controlling the confrontation instead of trying to guess and deflect our opponent’s strikes.  On learning to take the hit, minimize the damage, and return that energy.

If you’re going to be a writer, you’re going to get hit.  Some of those hits are going to hurt, as with my very first submission to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, which came back with a note “You must have had a point to this story … but I have no idea what it was.”  Or learning my French publisher wouldn’t buy the third goblin book because sales had been lousy.

Other hits are easier to shrug off, such as a negative review of The Stepsister Scheme which said “the book goes from happy girl power romp … to a few things that I’m sure could be found in an S&M porno.”

You can’t block every hit.  Some of them are going to knock you on your ass, like the day I learned Baen Books had withdrawn an offer to publish my novels.

Growing up, I remember the kids who would go crazy when hit, flailing about like a cross between Gonzo and the Tasmanian Devil. That happens with writers, too.  It’s not pretty.

You’re going to get hit.  Rejections and bad reviews, not to mention jealous friends or peers, trouble with editors and/or publishers, online trolls, flamewars, and so much more.  And it’s going to hurt.  Part of being a writer is learning to take the hit.

I think the most helpful thing is to regain your stance.  A good hit steals your balance.  Take it back.  Your writing career could span decades.  This is only one review, one rejection, one setback.  In the case of my French publisher, I had to remind myself that other aspects of my career were still going well.  (Happy side note: I now have a new French publisher which has picked up the first two princess books.)

In the case of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I found a way to send that energy right back.  I took her rejection as a challenge to write an even better story, one she would have to buy.  (I sold my first story to her in 1999, four years later.) 

Know which hits require a response, and how to respond.  Random Amazon reviewer?  You have to shrug it off.  Publisher refusing to pay you?  Start with one well-targeted strike from SFWA’s Griefcom.

Keep your focus.  Don’t let an opponent dictate how things are going to go.  One of the reasons I banned an individual from my LiveJournal last week is that I simply don’t have the time or energy for it; I have a book to finish.

And most importantly, remember to breathe.

Other suggestions or advice on how to take a literary hit?  Or how not to?