Rejection and Gratitude in Writing

My dear scribes:

Today, January 10th of the year 2019, is a historic day in my writing history. It is a day that I hope to look back on with fondness and invigoration.

Today marks the day of my first rejection from a literary agent!

When I was younger, the thought of sending my work out into the world, of bleeding out something that for so long had been kept quiet and secret, was enough to freeze my fingers at the keys. And then to have that piece of my heart rejected? Suffice to say, I feared the denial of agents and editors more than rejection in my personal day-to-day relationships. What was some dumb boy’s affections to the opinions of my literary betters?

But today I received my first rejection (not one week after sending out my first batch of queries, might I add), and I can’t help but feel…gratitude.

That might seem odd. And I’m not claiming that rejection doesn’t sting. But at this early stage in my career I can only afford to consider the positives.

I am grateful to have even been considered, because that means that I am officially in the game to play. If one rejection gets me down, then I’m in the game only to win, and winning isn’t possible without playing every card.

I am grateful that the response even showed up in my inbox, because a rejection is better than radio silence. I can now cross the agent off my list and send out another query in its place.

I am grateful that it was a personalized rejection. I hear that form rejections are common due to the sheer amount of queries that agents receive. So the fact that this particular agent took the time to comment on what she thought worked and didn’t work in my first few pages is extremely valuable to me. I know that my query and synopsis caught her attention with my concept and setting. I also know now that I need to work on kinks in sentence structure — which is feedback that I can use and that will be an incredible asset as I continue querying.

I am grateful for the rejection itself, because it means that this particular agent is not the right fit for me or my book. No doubt she provides terrific representation to a great number of writers, but without that initial spark in the querying process, there is no way that she could be the champion of my story that I would need her to be. Publishing is subjective, and that is simply a fact.

I am not going to post every time I get a rejection (because that will quickly get old as more roll in), but after reading my first rejection I was overcome by a sense of accomplishment. I needed to mark this moment, so that when I become discouraged I can look back and remember the things to be grateful for in a rejection.

Like I said before, I can’t afford to dwell in self-pity. I can only pick up my pen, revise again, and send out more queries.

Have you dealt with rejection in the literary sphere? What was your initial response? How have you grown from it?

Happy writing,

Emily

Advertisements

On the Accountability of an Unpublished Writer

Yesterday, my sister asked me why I was writing so much during winter break.

I told her: “I have a deadline I need to meet.”

“You don’t have a deadline,” she said. “This is all in your head. You’re doing this to yourself.”

Her response was not an unusual one. But it got me wondering: what is the difference between holding yourself accountable and having someone else depend upon your accountability?

I tried to explain to her that the deadlines I have set for myself are no less valuable than the deadlines set, say for example, by an agent or an editor. They are the liability of an unpublished writer. If I do not see myself as serious enough to meet a daily word count or to revise a certain number of pages a week, how can I ever visualize myself in the professional world of fiction?

Especially as a college student, these breaks are the most freedom I have to pursue finishing my novel, HYMNS OF SALT AND TERROR. If I don’t commit myself now, I will be unequipped to manage myself during the chaos of classes and work come February.

Yes, this is all in my head. Yes, I am doing this to myself.

Because who else will?

© 2018 Stellular Scribe

How To Avoid Being A Jealous Writer

Artistic envy is easier than ever in this digital age. As writers, we naturally gravitate towards other creatives online to follow their work. At first it’s all good and inspiring, but after a few book promotions here, a blog blast there, it doesn’t take much to feel jealous.

I’ve experienced it myself: feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, that I’m never doing enough, that I can never compete. The world is filled with brilliant writers who have worked hard and found tremendous luck, and sometimes I wonder why I can’t just slip into success like them.

The problem is magnified when the object of envy is a close friend. You love them. You want to support them. But you feel sick to your stomach after reading the tenth Facebook post about their good fortune. You want to simultaneously congratulate them and shrink into a hole when they write something spectacular.

I’m not perfect. I still find myself thinking, “Why do you even try?” But I’ve managed to lessen the bite of the green-eyed monster by taking the following steps:

  1. Accept that we’re all brutal on the inside. To ourselves. To others. And it’s ok to feel crummy. It’s ok to admit it to yourself. Because if you acknowledge your jealousy, you acknowledge that everyone has feelings of self-doubt and resentment sometimes. Chances are, that exact person who you’re envious of is just as insecure as you.
  2. *slaps you upside the head* Now pull yourself together! Jealousy won’t get you any further than a blank page and a case of qualms! Life is too short and your creativity too expansive to keep wondering “what if?” and “why try?” *pats you on the shoulder* There, now. Sorry I had to get curt there. Shall we go on?
  3. Recognize your accomplishments. Maybe that’s writing a few sentences a day; maybe it’s getting published in a magazine. Rejoice in yourself and what you have done, because dang it, you’ve worked hard and you should love yourself and your passions first and foremost.
  4. Realize that the object of your jealousy got there for a reason. More often than not, it’s because they worked hard and put in the time and learned the business. Sometimes people get lucky; I get that. It’s an unpredictable industry. But if you accept that they deserve their success, then it’ll be much easier for you to congratulate them and figure out the steps you can take to achieve your own goals.
  5. Set goals for yourself. Maybe you want to query at least one agent a week or write one thousand words a day. Small or large, giving yourself something to look forward to will help keep your mind off feelings of uncertainty and inferiority. It’ll give you something to feel proud of!
  6. Think about why you’re jealous and put it into perspective. Is it because someone you know got a big-name, six figure book deal? There’s a difference between working for an art and throwing your art to the wind and hoping it lands on a publisher who is in a good mood. It is in no way an indication of your talent or worth if you do not have those same opportunities. What it really comes down to is what makes you happy: making art or raking in the profit?
  7. If need be, remove yourself. Hide someone’s feed on Facebook. Take a break from their blog for a week. If you like them and you’re jealous, take a break. If you don’t like them and you’re jealous, remove them entirely. Blocking someone is never the best solution, but it can help if feelings of personal inadequacy are impossible to shake off.
  8. Wish other writers well. This is the hardest part, but it’s arguably the most important. Without each other, our art goes nowhere. It speaks to no one. Think about a time someone complimented your work and how you felt. Think about how you would feel if you accomplished something that you cared about and poured your heart into, and were only received with jealous eyes. Support other writers, because one day they may be the ones wishing you well.

Happy writing!

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Image: “Writer’s Block” by Drew Coffman