Much of what writers do involves waiting. We submit our work to publishers or periodicals, hoping for good news, growing thick skin for bad news.
Writing Tip for Today: Here are some tips for handling both good and bad writing news:
I started writing in high school, when a creative writing teacher insisted I submit poems to national publications. Lo and behold, the first poem I sent out was accepted. I was of course on cloud nine. And I thought I’d have smooth sailing ahead until I took home a Pulitzer or the Nobel prize.
Many, many rejections later, I realized that rejection is part of the training writers must master. If I never received “bad news” I’d be smug and not open to good feedback. After years of writing (10,000 hours?), I published my first novel. Even then, I thought readers would worship at my feet. Uh, not so much.
I developed not only a thick skin but also a personal rule: I give myself twenty-four hours to mope, pout, sulk, cry and rant about the unfairness of it all. But after that day, I must get back in the writing chair and forge ahead. After the sting of rejection dies back, I often find better ways to write and I see clearly where I need to improve.
While some who wish to write use rejection as a justification for stopping, I used to remind my students that wherever you quit, that’s all you get. If you find that you can’t stop writing, you are proving to yourself that your desire goes beyond just wanting acceptance and accolades. You have something to say!
No one likes bad news, but pro writers often make rejections work for them by growing that thick skin and by working to improve their craft. I once showed a mentor a little piece I’d written that was fluffy and funny, ha ha. She derided me and said I could do so much better. I was really mad but went home and churned out a much better essay that ended up being the theme and title of my next book.
Keep gathering those “nos” until you begin to get rejections with handwritten notes attached. This signals real progress. An editor or agent likes your style and even though they can’t use the present work, they encourage you to keep at it.
When good news (acceptances or contracts) finally arrive, enjoy your success. But after nearly a dozen books, I know that this elation only lasts a short while. Then comes the pressure to market, rewrite or somehow pull off the magic once again.
The adage that “writing is rewriting” really is true. If you land your first fiction book deal, you may think the publisher loves every word you wrote. The reality is that you still have content and copy editors ahead. If you can’t stand rewriting, you may not want to keep up your writing career.
Good news for most of us isn’t a whirlwind book tour or fame and fortune. Most writers will never become James Patterson or other top sellers. In fact, the money is pretty paltry for most of us. Yet something tugs us forward, through the bad news and the good news. Write because you can’t stop writing. And may your successes be great and your rejections few. Keep Writing!