Dealing With Disappointment

Perhaps this post is tempting fate. If my mother were here, she’d no doubt tell me to put the laptop away and go to bed, and not to be writing nonsense all over my lovely blog. But she’s not, so I’m going to take a short trip down a dark and scary road, and talk a little bit about disappointment.

disappointmentAnyone who stops by here on a regular basis (hello and thank you, by the way) will know that a writer is what I want to be. Anyone with half a brain will know that it’s not exactly a secure or lucrative thing to do with your life. You may also have gathered that I’m sort of new to the whole writing scene – I’m just beginning to dip my toes in the cold, unforgiving water that is A Writing Career. I’m green, full of ‘notions’ (as we say in Ireland), perhaps even a little too optimistic. I’m aware of all this, I know that it’s not very clever, and I know that I will, at some stage – possibly in the very near future – have to deal with disappointment.

The bad thing is, I know from personal experience that I don’t deal well with disappointment. I’m almost afraid to get feedback on my writing, because it (both my writing, and by extension, the criticism) feels so personal to me, and if the feedback isn’t good, it feels like a laceration across my heart. This is ridiculous, of course – I’m well aware of it, too. But it’s a hard habit to break. Thinking about it logically, here and now, I realise clearly that interpreting someone’s opinion about something I’ve written as a direct judgement upon me as a person is completely nuts. But still I do it. And because I tend toward that way of thinking, I often wonder why I’m choosing to put myself in the firing line, and why I’m leaving myself open to huge disappointment and rejection. I know that writing professionally is a long, hard struggle. I know that overnight success doesn’t happen. I know that I’m setting myself up for a fall, followed by another fall, followed by another… Knowing it isn’t the same as experiencing it, but I hope it’ll help, when the time comes.

I suppose I’m taking this path in life because I want to write more than I fear being rejected; however, it’s taken me a long, long time to come to this point. It’s also good for me – I tell myself, at least – to start dealing with rejection and disappointment in a constructive way, and to learn (through being rejected and disappointed on a regular basis!) how to separate the feeling of ‘not being good enough’ from my concept of myself. I don’t have any secrets around how to get through the feeling of rejection after rejection – not yet, at least – but I hope that the mental preparation I’m trying to do now will act as some sort of armour when I’m sitting waiting for the phone to ring, or for an email to appear. Sometimes, reminders about what I’m facing come from the most unexpected places. A throwaway comment from a friend today, for instance, threw me into a funk of ‘what the heck am I letting myself in for?’-itis;Β  I went for a long walk in the evening sunshine, and thought about these issues deeply. I came to a few conclusions:

1. If/When I’m rejected, whether it be by beta-reader, agent, publisher, or whomever, it’ll hurt, but it’s not the end of the world.

2. If/When I’m rejected, I should take time to realise that it is not me who is being rejected. It’s my work which has not come up to scratch, and there may be myriad reasons for that. Tastes differ, the market might not be right, I may have made a huge error in my presentation, or in my work… whatever. It doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly become a horrible person, who isn’t worthy of anything good happening to her.

3. Rejection, and the crushing disappointment that inevitably follows, is an opportunity to learn and grow. Weed out what’s not working, re-jig your work, and send it out again. Let someone else have the opportunity to read it.

4. Every rejection will make me a better writer, and – more than likely – a far better person, too.

5. When I’m disappointed, I need to allow myself to feel it, get through it, and get over it. Telling myself my own feelings are silly is another route to mental pain, so I hope I’ll allow myself time to recover between onslaughts.

6. Don’t Give Up. I’ve worked hard to get here.

(and my favourite, possibly because it’s my mother’s mantra):

7. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well (Julian of Norwich).

Anybody have any tips, or words of wisdom they’d care to share? For those who are old hands at the whole ‘submit work, which is rejected, which is re-worked, which is submitted again’ cycle – does it get easier with time? (Please say ‘yes’!)

puss in boots

12 thoughts on “Dealing With Disappointment

  1. Emma Adams

    I’ve been collecting rejection letters for over two years now and I can say it does get easier! Every disappointment is a learning experience, and I’ve found that the criticism that seemed the most harsh was actually the most helpful to me because it taught me how to improve my work. Definitely don’t give up – a lot of agents and publishers don’t reject your work based on literary merit but often simply because it doesn’t appeal to their personal tastes. It doesn’t say anything about you or your writing ability! πŸ™‚

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you! That’s just what I wanted to hear, actually. πŸ™‚ Anything that improves your work has got to be a good thing. I’m determined to get there, no matter what. Thank you very much for your kind and helpful comment!

      P.S. I hope your own book is selling well – I’m really glad you’re having such success. Thank you for dropping by my blog. πŸ™‚

  2. aanderand

    Good morning, my world clock says it is 4:00am your time so I am hoping you are fast asleep and not tossing and turning with nightmares of flying rejection letters. πŸ™‚ The fact you stayed up late to write you blog says this is a very serious concern for you. All I can say is that I think you have thought through it very well and have yourself prepared for what will come when you move from doing the writing and trying to get it out into the world. As you said, you are looking for that acceptance more than you fear the rejection, so you will keep trying and you will be fine.
    I’m new at this writing game and I am really doing it for myself. I plan on going the self publish route which will be fine for the type of things I have in mind. So, I don’t have much to say about the cycle that you were asking about but I do have a fairly long history of knocking about in the world. I can say getting yourself knocked down then picking yourself up and getting back in the game does get easier over time. You learn each time how not to get knocked down and when you do, how to soften the landing and rebound quicker. But, I am built a little different than you. I had to combat rejection at a very early age so my defenses were forged before I had to face the world.
    I hope, you will you look back on this post, after you have adoring fans all over the world, and think how silly you were to have given disappointment even a second thought.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      πŸ˜€ You’re so sweet! Thank you, especially for your last paragraph. I hope it’ll work out that way!

      I slept, eventually, and went into a deep sleep – at 4 a.m., I was definitely in the land of Nod, and I slept so well that when I woke at around 6.45 a.m., it was as if I’d just put my head on the pillow. Oh well! Anyway, thank you for your insights. I’m the kind of person who always resisted putting herself ‘out there’ or taking risks, just because I was afraid of what might happen. So, this is a good thing for me. It’s good to take a chance and just go for something you want, trusting yourself to deal with whatever might happen. It’s useful to think that the process may not be as bad as I’m imagining, and that no matter how bad it is, it will get better as I go through it.

      Phew. What’s to be afraid of? πŸ™‚ Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  3. susan_lanigan (@susan_lanigan)

    I’ve got a lof of rejections, some just the usual boilerplate b******,, others more personal feedback. And with competitions, hearing nothing has been the rejection. The most annoying ones are the “close but no cigar”, especially if you did get shortlisted for something. As for getting them, yeah the 20th is definitely less distressing than the first!

    I’d maybe try subbing to a few places where the stakes are not too high, maybe flash fictions or something, to get practice in getting rejections, Also for my novel in progress I had a very supportive online group to encourage me so that was a relatively painless way of exposing snippets of my work.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks, Susan. You know, that’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while – trying to join a critique circle, or something similar. As you say, it’s a way of gradually getting your work out there, and sort of acclimatising yourself to the world of Other People’s Opinions before you put your precious words in front of someone with the power to say ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’.

      Thanks very much for your wise advice. I sort of wish I’d had this advice months ago – but still – ‘Je ne regrette rien’, even if things don’t work out exactly as I planned. I’ll work on getting some flash fiction pieces out there. Thank you!

  4. anna3101

    I soooo understand how you feel. When someone criticizes your work – be it writing, drawing or other creative stuff – it hurts more than anything else because (I don’t know if you also feel the same way) your writing has become a part of y o u. I’m a highly sensitive person in every area of life, but criticism? Of my writing? That’s like they just stabbed me with a knife πŸ™‚ Though of course if it’s mildly put and concrete and not just “hey, that’s rubbish, period”, that’s another matter altogether. Long live constructive criticism! When I was reading (a very interesting) book called “Is There A Book In You”, there was a whole chapter about taking rejections and how much it will hurt (and asking yourself if you are actually able to cope with that). However, there were a lot of inspiring examples of people who made it into publishing their books and who had a LOT of rejections. One of my favourite thriller writers had 50 attempts before someone finally was “kind enough” to accept his first manuscript. And I always remind myself about Walt Disney – who made more than 300!!! attempts of taking a loan in different banks to build Disneyland before someone actually agreed. I’m not sure I could ever be that determined but it does inspire me. Hope it will do the same for you πŸ™‚

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you! Just knowing there are other people in the world who understand how I feel is helpful to me. πŸ™‚ It’s so wonderful to read a comment like yours and think: Yep. That’s exactly what I meant. I should have distinguished between criticism and constructive criticism, of course – thanks for reminding me of that!

      Thank you for your great comment, and for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate it. Have a good day! πŸ™‚

  5. Michelle Proulx

    It definitely gets easier. I spent most of my university years sending essays home to my mother for her to look through, and getting back emails like, “This isn’t very good. Did you do this at the last minute again?” and “It’s fine, but it could be a lot better.” Then I wrote a novel and OH GOD did the criticism fly. I’ve come to expect negative critiques from her now, so I’m pretty much immune to the sting of criticism now (from her, at least). I’m not so good dealing with criticism from other people, but I’m working on it. But yes, it gets easier. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and all that jazz.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      That’s a clever move – getting the person closest to you to be your first and harshest critic! Then, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. If you can survive your mother’s critique, you can survive anything. Wish I’d thought of that. πŸ™‚

      I’d imagine (if what you say about killing and making stronger, and so on, is true) that I’ll be the strongest person on earth by the end of this process! πŸ™‚ But it’s great to know that others have been there before me and are willing to share their wisdom. Thank you.

  6. Pingback: Owner of a Broken Heart… | SJ O'Hart

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