I’ve had more than my share of rejections, literary and otherwise. It comes with the territory. Some rejections are form letters, others are a bit more personalized. Then there are the rejections that drop the word “potential” and offer some constructive criticism. I am happy and appreciative of the criticism, even though I may not want to hear it. But there is something about the word “potential” that gets under my skin and makes me see red.

For me it’s like receiving a patronizing pat on the head and being sent on my way. I think it’s because after all of the work that I pour into a particular story or novel, I think it’s past the “potential” stage. After years of writing and rewriting, having a number of short stories published, I often feel like I’m past the “potential” stage. The “potential” stage is for beginners, for those who don’t know any better, those who need to be taught the basics, etc.

I get so wrapped up in the word “potential” that I miss the bigger picture. I forget the feedback that I have received, that a profession has given much thought to and wishes to impart on me. For an agent to say your novel has potential, give some examples on what to revise, and encourage you to keep trying is a complement. This novel may not be for them, but they see the “potential” that it has, and they think it’s worthwhile. They are guiding you to that path that you need to take.

“But my novel is just as good as —–‘s novel!” I doth protest.

And that may (or may not) be true. But I don’t want to be as good as so-and-so. I don’t want to write a mediocre novel that is read and quickly forgotten. The idea is to do your utmost, to create a work of art, and to paint pictures with words.

What now?

Apparently, my novel has “potential.”

So…back to writing.


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