Monday, January 18, 2010

Get Back Up

Are there any among us who haven't had self-doubts? Is there anyone who is elated to get rejection after rejection? Haven't most of us, at one time or another, questioned this career of writing?

Self-doubt and even depression are normal. Some of us get down after finishing a novel. It may take a while to get started on the next one. We may have periods when we think, "Why in the world am I doing this?" And, certainly, we can have ambivalent feelings about querying. If you're querying agents or editors, it means you've accomplished something and you're ready to move onto the next step. You anticipate replies as you walk to the mail box. And you feel that knot in your stomach as you read the rejection. (And sometimes the elation of the acceptance or check.)

Writers have to handle more than just rejection, though. We have critique partners who disassemble our work, readers who complain about errors or research mistakes, editors who insist on inane changes, bookstores that forget to stock our book or just won't. We tend to work alone at our computers or typewriters. Sometimes our progress seems so slow, we wonder if there's any forward movement at all.

But every time you get "down" or suspect that you must be a second-rate hack or you would be published (or be a best-selling author or at the top of your editor's list or whatever), remember that these feelings will pass. Do something to soothe your spirit.

But do NOT beat yourself up. There are plenty of people out there willing to do that for you. Some of them even enjoy doing it. (Try to cut those people out of your life, or at least limit your contact with them.)

I repeat, don't beat yourself up. We're in a business where we have to live with bad news. But, very rarely, are those rejections directed at your personally. Your article didn't fit that magazine -- but that's not a dig at you as a person. The agent thought your synopsis was a pile of warm spit. Yeah, it hurts. But it's not the end of the world. And in the scheme of your life, it's not a major event -- unless you let it be.

If you take a cat-o-nine-tails and start beating on yourself, you weaken your resolve, you put dents into your armor of confidence, you hurt your inner spirit. Sure, after a rejection, you can take a little down time to recover, but use that time to learn, grow, do something enjoyable, focus on some neglected aspect of your life. Okay, so you're a little down. But if you start kicking yourself while you're down, it'll only be harder to get back up.
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38 comments:

  1. The journey to being published has been a long one and I'm not there yet. I agree; we can only hurt ourselves. Rejection isn't personal and emotion always gets in the way of objectivity. Lots of people and events can knock us down, but only one person can pick us up. I've learnt that the writing community is a supportive one, and I'm grateful. Write because you love it, and live the same way.

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  2. Rejection means to me that someone read, appraised, and decided my work was not right for their publication. I get happy that they got to it at all. If you get upset by rejections, don't be. Look at your work again. Look at the content matter of what you submitted to. It just wasn't right for them.

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  3. Developing a thick skin can be really useful in this business..sad, but true. Sometimes negative reviews or rejections can point out ways to improve our writing, if we can get past the negativity and see the suggestions.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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  4. Assuming you get any suggestions.

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  5. True, sometimes you don't get suggestions. Sometimes you get a small typed slip of paper that clearly has been copied many times. Gather a group of fellow writers whom you enjoy being with. Not so much to commiserate with, but to not talk about writing with, to renew your spirit.

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  6. Wise words. One way to look at .. if there was no rejection to start with, how would you ever know it made it to the top at the end? Great post.

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  7. Thanks, Helen! I know this in my head, but need to be reminded from time to time.

    I am in the midst of the blasted silence... queries sent... quick responders responded already (a bit of hope there), but the slow responders are... SLOW RESPONDING. I hate waiting even worse than I hate rejection I think.

    Excellent point on the 'if feedback' bit--one of my rejections this time ended up with me rewriting my query (I think it's better) and removing any thought of mentioning 'thriller' (as genre thrillers are shorter and move faster)...VERY helpful. (but it's the first agent feedback I've ever gotten)

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  8. I find too that often there is something valuable to be gleaned from the rejections ... for instance, if it's merely not the right fit, target better in the future. If it's anything more than a Dear Aurhor note, usually there's something, somewhere, to take away from the rejection that can help lead to acceptance. What a journey!

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  9. You so totally understand! It's like a million things trying to beat us down. Yes, I go through phases where I wonder why on earth am I doing this?

    BTW - you have a bloggy award awaiting at my post today!! A special one!

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  10. "Are there any among us who haven't had self-doubts? ... Haven't most of us, at one time or another, questioned this career of writing?"

    Were you reading my mind yesterday, Helen? Shame on you. :)

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  11. It's as if you crawled inside my head and wrote what I feel most of the time. I have days where I know I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing, no matter what. Others, not so much. But you've written truth here today. And we can all take it inside ourselves and try to remember these wise words on those days that get us down. Thank you.
    Karen

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  12. I think that's great advice for life in general!

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  13. This is great advice. It's hard to stay positive, but necessary.

    A great resource that helps me when I'm down is my writing group.

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  14. Great advice for all of us, Helen. I always try to remind myself that it wasn't a good fit, not that my writing was bad. If all else fails, I remember how many rejections Stephen King had. :)

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  15. Fortunately I'm pretty even-keeled most of the time, but I've riden the wave a few times.

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  16. Excellent post, Helen. It's something that would benefit everyone, but especially applies to writers. We all need to remember this.

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  17. We all get rejection, but it seems that artists, like actors, writers, painters, etc., get it almost daily and can internalize it instead of letting go.

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  18. Helen, what a thoughtful post. This seems to be going around a bit--the beating yourself up. Yah, me too. You made a good point:

    "If you take a cat-o-nine-tails and start beating on yourself, you weaken your resolve, you put dents into your armor of confidence, you HURT YOUR INNER SPIRIT."

    Words of wisdom and something I needed to hear, thank you.

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  19. Writers almost need a group where we can meet, not talk about writing, and renew our spirit and our resolve.

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  20. What a wonderful, uplifting, needed saying article from someone with high credibility. Thank you. Gonna print this baby and stick it on my bulletin board. Thanks Helen. Gotta share this via a tweet.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

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  21. What a marvelous post, Helen; just what I needed to read on grey Monday morning. I think thick skin is a necessity for anyone embarking on any creative venture. Learn from your mistakes? Of course. Believe you can always improve? Of course again. But always believe (even in the tiniest part of your brain) that success is waiting.

    It just might take it's time.

    Elspeth

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  22. Often, we creative types take rejections too much to heart. If a proposal is rejected, it is good to already have another place in mind to send the proposal, and to keep it "out there".
    Of course, we can take the opportunity to tweak and improve it before sending it out again.

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  23. Perhaps this is why the blogosphere is so helpful. We get rejected somewhere, but here, for the most part, readers are supportive.

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  24. My mom always said, "Have the courage of your convictions." In other words, "I'm a writer, self-doubts be gone."

    Excellent post, Helen.

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  25. Misery loves company. (g) Thanks for the reminder I'm not alone, next time doubts hit me.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com
    http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com

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  26. Excellent post; serendipity strikes again. Two days ago I did a mini-meditation using Heart Math, where I calm myself and ask my heart how to best proceed. The answer? Banish self-doubt.
    You shared the whys and hows so well; thank you.

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  27. Thank you for this very wonderful post, Helen. After the few rejection letters I've gotten (as well as the silence in lieu of the letters) I've been trying to muster up the guts to put out more queries while continuing work on my new project. Your words are an excellent reminder to all artists that when we have something in us, driving us to commit our art to paper/computer, the last thing we need to do is turn toward self-annihilation. Thank you, again.

    ~Kimberly

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  28. I'm glad we now have the blogosphere to share our thoughts, successes and set-backs. It helps to have a community of friends.

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  29. True words, Helen! Thanks for the encouragement this morning. I've been amazed at the perpetual emotional rollercoaster I've been on since I started this journey. I have to give myself constant pep talks, but sometimes those don't even work so well. You're right, it's wonderful to have an online community so we can remember we're not alone.

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  30. Thanks for this, Helen. In the past I tended more towards the cat o nine description. Unfortunately, it runs in the family. But I'm learning that everyone make mistakes, everyone gets rejections. It's all part of this crazy journey we call life :)

    Jen

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  31. Publication isn't easy. Thanks for the reminder it's okay to ride the rollercoaster - as long as we keep climbing back up :)

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  32. Those rejections can invoke all kinds of emotions but I am thankful that the first pitch I made to an agent didn't result in an acceptance because I went on to work harder and learn more. Thank goodness for writing friends who help you to get up.
    Ann

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  33. Great advice, Helen. For a long time I have been telling folks that I think tenacity is as important as talent to succeed as a writer. And we absolutely have to separate the work from our egos.

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  34. Ah, rejection, where would I be without you?

    Here are the ones I remember:

    "I just don't love it enough to represent it."

    "You should use (this line of the poem) to start a story."

    Still makes me stick out my tongue.

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  35. I agree with you Helen. Great post!

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  36. We are all from bedlam, choosing this path. But what's life if there isn't a bit of drama? It'll be too boring.

    Really Angelic

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  37. Those little snippets of rejection sure tend to stay with us, don't they?

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