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.
Anyone 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; 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’!)