Writers are an emotional lot–we have to be to tell the truth in an artful way. This leaves us open to the whims of emotion–and more than a few down days. Rejection, a harsh critique, rejection, harsh reviews, rejection, family & friends who say you need to get a real job, rejection–all this adds up to crushed egos, bruises and and bumps.
Writing Tip for Today: Before you threaten to burn that manuscript, I want to encourage you. The three Ps (Practice, Persistence, Patience) are critical to your success, whatever that looks like to you. On days when you consider taking up knitting instead of writing, here are some pick-me-ups that you can use first on your own tarnished writer’s ego, and then on those writers around you who may be discouraged.
- You’re Just Practicing. Toss rejections you’ve amassed into the Practice pile. If anyone had told me that my novel, The Fence My Father Built, would go through countless rewrites and 15 years of rejection, I doubt I would have kept writing. With each new bump–from rejections to ill-advised counsel to my own self-doubt, I sometimes set the book aside. But I always came back. I needed a LOT of practice.
- Give Up and Go Home. If you stop sending your work out, or worse, never get to submitting it in the first place, how can you persevere? Writers are tested, most of us anyway, and we don’t often hit the mark the first few times out. Learn to de-personalize rejection. It just means your work doesn’t fit the publication specs according to a human, subjective agent or editor. It doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. It doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy against you. It doesn’t even mean the editor or agent is right. Grieve for a day and then move on. That’s persistence.
- Surprises Await You. I wrote a cute story about my daughter’s wedding for an anthology. Her outdoor wedding last July meant we had to rent port-a-potties for the guests. When I didn’t hear back from the editor for six months, I assumed this publisher didn’t go for bathroom humor, however tame and funny. Almost a year later, I got a notice saying they’d accepted my story. Remind yourself that stuff like this happens all the time in the publishing world. With the Internet, we’re attuned to running faster and faster, but both books and periodical publishers often seem as if they still use smoke signals and clay tablets to communicate. Manuscripts get lost. Publication dates get pushed back. After two or three months of waiting, it’s OK to check on your manuscript’s status. But don’t mull too long why you haven’t heard about your project. For most writers, if you are patient long enough, persistent as a pesky insect and you practice enough, you’ll eventually get where you’re going. Enjoy the ride.