At first the very worst of fortune’s might,
And other strains of woe…” (Sonnet 90, Shakespeare)
What beautiful words! But, to an unpublished author, they are no consolation when the lash of fortune’s might is another rejection letter (or e-mail) from a publisher.
I’ve been writing since 1997. That’s fourteen years and seven completed novels. That’s a lot of rejections I’ve had to learn to live with. Rejection becomes easier when a new writer finally realises that rejection letters are all part of the process of becoming a professional story teller. Rejection letters can be worn like a badge of honour, but they can also bring the curse of self-doubt. And self-doubt can become your greatest enemy, for it freezes your creativity and weighs your writing down with your most secret fears.
What can a fledgling author do to overcome the rejection blues? Here are five stepping stones that can help you find your way from rejection to publication:
Seek Emotional Detachment
· Rejection isn’t personal. Really, it’s not. Even though it feels very personal when you all you receive for your efforts is a bland form letter. But you need to be able to separate yourself from your writing. No writer, no matter how brilliant or famous, is able to produce a mistake-free manuscript. Not even you.
· Be neither too critical nor too generous when you chip away at the tiny flaws in your manuscript. If you're too critical, your inner critic will delight in freezing every future creative idea you have. If you're too generous, your ego will never allow you to admit to yourself that your work still needs improvement. To gain an objective view of your manuscript you need to fuse your inner critic (which can't see anything right in your work) with your ego (which can't see anything wrong in your work). Recognise both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in your story. And then start again.
Take Positive Action
· Continue learning: Read a book on the craft of writing. Attend a live webinar on writing. You can learn something new about your craft every day.
· Get active on Social Media: Start a blog or, if you have one, write a blog post. Visit other blogs. Submit your work to on-line communities (but check their credentials first.)
· Join a writing group: Search your local papers, or the Internet, for writing groups in your area or on-line forums. Find one that suits your needs and your personality and join in. Be pro-active; participate in doing critiques of other's works as well as in submitting your own work for critique.
· Go to the movies: Or watch your favourite DVD. Follow the plot. Watch the characterisations. Listen to the dialogue. Then think about how you can do the same in your writing.
· Read: Go back to your favourite authors' books. Find their best book and their worst one. Every author, no matter how great or ordinary their creative talent, has that one book which is the pinnacle of their art...and they also have at least one book which just doesn't "work". Reading the first will keep you humble. Reading the second will inspire you. And being An Author will, once again, become a reachable dream.
Write, Write, Write:
· Taking positive action can easily become non-action. Reading a book on “how-to-write” can seem to be very “writerly”.
· But no matter how useful, there is no substitute for actually doing your own writing. Even if the story you create is half a page, the sheer act of writing again will start your creative juices flowing. All you're trying to do here is unblock any inner resistance or fear of writing again.
· Write what you want to write without worrying about what someone else will think. Just have fun!
Only your unique voice counts. Maybe that voice isn't as profound as some; maybe it’s not as humorous, but it’s yours. And your job as a writer is to strive for the best work you can produce at the current level of your skill and talent. It’s not your job to decide on how good or bad your writing is. Only the readers and, ultimately, history, will decide how your writing compares to others. All you have to do is let your voice soar across the page and fill the woods with your unique song.
Choose Another Path:
With the advent of eBooks, and the rapidly changing face of the publishing world, many new paths are opening for writers. You can traditionally publish or, like me, you can become The Fool and take the leap into independently publishing your own work. Whichever path you choose, make sure it is the right one for you.
Once these five steps become second nature, the next rejection letter (or the reader’s equivalent, a bad review) that you receive won’t feel like the worst of fortune’s might. Instead, you’ll continue writing and soon rejections will be nothing more than a conquered woe and you will be A Published Author.
Misha, thanks so much for hosting me here. I really enjoyed my visit and, to say thanks, I’d like to ask you to draw the name of a random commentator, who will win a US$15 gift voucher (from their preferred choice of book store.)
If anyone would like me to do a guest post on their blog, please email me at email@example.com to discuss a suitable topic and a mutually agreeable date.
Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her short stories have been published in ITCH magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology”. She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition. Her independently published novel, “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” is available from Amazon and Smashwords.
So... How do you deal with rejection?