Monday, August 17, 2009

In Praise of the Gatekeepers

Ah, the Gatekeepers, those individuals that by talent, luck, money, or some other mystical power are the arbiters of what the public reads, sees, or listens to. They keep the standards high enough, and artists (writers, dramatists, actors, musicians) must hone their craft to a fine edge. The Gatekeepers cut through slush like, well, slush. They find the jewels glittering amongst the garbage.

I know editors have sent some of my garbage hurtling back my way. Thanks.

After hundreds (really hundreds...am I approaching 1,000?) rejections, I'm not so bitter anymore. Really. Rejections don't sting so much. Of course, the "tail side" of that coin means acceptances don't come with as much of a rush. Not until The New Yorker calls, anyway. Acceptance and rejection is part of the business, right?

My wife and I went to a play on Saturday. It was a free performance, sure...a local thing with no checks and balances. No Gatekeepers. We didn't pay (donations only). We left at intermission.

The play was awful.

Horrid.

Dreadful.

From the acting to the script to the direction and even the lighting. Awful.

I used to direct our school plays. Yeah, school plays can be pretty bad, but at least the script is usually written by a professional...(thank you Gatekeepers). This thing we attended on Saturday was drivel. Muck. Slush of the worst kind. I'm not being nice. I know, but look: I rarely have a night out with my wife sans kids, and I feel like the play stole my precious time.

Gatekeepers...despite their human foibles (nepotism being my least favorite), help keep the standards high so poor schumcks like me don't waste their date night on dreck.

So, to all those editors and agents that have been wise enough to reject my work when it wasn't good enough, thanks. Rejections aren't fun for you or me, but I want to improve, to become a better writer. I don't want to waste anyone's time.

14 comments:

Alan W. Davidson said...

That's a nice nod to the evil Gatekeepers. They have an important function, as you correctly point out. I don't think that you're wasting anyone's time. I'm sure that a rejection for you at this stage just means that there's stiff competition out there...oh, and sorry to hear about the play. I miss all of that as we used to have a season subsription back in London and dropped in on Stratford a couple of times a summer.

K.C. Shaw said...

Yeah, much as I resent having to jump that bar, I'd much rather work my way up to jumping it than having everyone just hop through. Imagine if a trip to the book store meant trawling through shelves of self-published stuff looking for the one book published by Random House.

You'll make it, probably soon. Hopefully, I will too. I know I was awfully disappointed when The Weredeer came back to me last time, but I've improved it so much since then that now I'm glad. (Now I just need to send it out again--I can't quite bring myself to do it yet.)

Catherine J Gardner said...

I agree, except in the case of Frog as his tale is most wonderful and must be read.

Aaron Polson said...

Alan - trust me, this "play" was in a seperate universe from anything you may have seen at Stratford.

K.C. - yikes...bookstores are hard enough to navigate without all that schtuff.

Cate - he will find a home...I'm confident.

katey said...

Having wasted a sad amount of time on crap theater myself, I couldn't agree more. It's good to remind ourselves that while they might make us feel cock blocked sometimes, they also keep us from making ourselves look like... er, cocks.

Carrie Harris said...

Gosh yes. I've seen people get bitter because of rejections, and I want to jump up and down and say that it's not because editors and agents get off on completely obliterating people's dreams! Every rejection is an opportunity to improve, even if it doesn't feel that way.

Jamie Eyberg said...

It makes it all the worse when the gatekeepers let us down and let the drivel slide through the bars of the gate. Yes, gatekeeps are there for a reason.

Natalie L. Sin said...

In my mind, they made a play out of "Dude, Where's My Car."

Danielle Ferries said...

They're a necessary evil.

Strange Publications said...

Katey - I almost laughed out loud...and the play was supposed to be tragic. Shame on me?

Carrie - I just want to thank them that I didn't embarass myself with the rejected manuscript. Heck yeah it's an opportunity.

Jamie - Drivel does slide through...we're all human, I 'spose.

Natalie - Close. Add some gospel numbers, and you're there.

Danielle - The best kind of evil. ;)

Rebecca Nazar said...

I recall going to a horrible play and when I came out my forehead hurt from knitting my brows in disgust all night. A nod goes to gatekeepers for sparing me deeper wrinkles.

Benjamin Solah said...

I kind of agree and kind of don't.

I'm beginning to see the gatekeepers as a bit of an obstacle for things worth publishing.

Not to say my stuff is good despite being rejected but publishers always think too much about profit, about what sells.

Short story collections are so hard to publish due to this and some things fit small niches that aren't profitable due to not being able to reach a mass.

Brendan P. Myers said...

In future news, Kansas man caps astonishing 11 Tony Awards with Pulitzer win for "boldly re-imagining American theater . . ."

Jeremy Kelly said...

The Gatekeepers have been awful tough on me lately, but I love 'em for it.

I guess. *rolls eyes*.