And if you step in it, it will get your shoes filthy.
But it is part of writing. Not just something that will happen to those “other writers”, if you are submitting your work, you will get rejected. Most likely a hell of a lot.
So say it with me, “I WILL GET REJECTED. A LOT. AND I WILL SURVIVE IT.”
Writing is a brutal, vile, nasty business, filed with shattered dreams, broken hearts, and damaged computers. But once you realize you’re a writer, there's no way out. Well, to be fair, you may be stuck being a writer, they really haven’t created a 12 step program for us yet, but you chose to send your work out. This is all self-inflicted, baby. (If you are at the stage of being able to walk away from being a writer- DO IT! RUN! Save yourself! It’s too late for the rest of us!)
So what is the best way to deal with any natural disaster? (And, yes, I am lumping rejections in that group- self-inflicted or not ;)).
Plan. You know it’s going to happen. IT WILL HAPPEN. So, have a plan for it.
First, let’s look at what NOT to do (please feel free to add your own in the comments section below ;)).
1) POSTING ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR BOOK, OR THE PUBLISHER/AGENT/REVIEWER IN QUESTION ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, YOUR BLOG, ETC. DO NOT DO IT. Nuff said.
2) Venting to non-writers. This is akin to complaining to your friends when you and your significant other have a fight. Your friends don’t like to see you in pain, so they may try to steer you away from the pain causing element (aka writing or your significant other). Other writers understand that just because you vent doesn’t mean you’re giving up. If you have non-writing friends/family who get that as well (and luckily I do :)) hang on to them! Otherwise, keep your venting to those who will know it for what it is.
3) Do not engage in the Pity Party portion of the program UNTIL you’ve done damage control. You want to enjoy the pity party, and if you’re still wounded and wallowing you won’t. You’ll eat lots of calories and not even enjoy it! Allow yourself to have a Pity Party, but be alert and aware during it.
4) Don’t revamp your entire book based on ONE person’s opinion. No matter who that one person is. Now, if you get a lot of feedback aiming towards the same weakness- then take a long hard look at it. Likewise, don’t obsess on tiny points of “meaning” in the rejection letter. Take anything constructive, then walk away from the rest. And a form letter just means an agent/editor didn’t have time to break down why they were rejecting it. It could be they just bought something just like yours. Don’t obsess, take what works, and then move on.
Now what are some plans for what to do? (Again, please feel free to add your own!)
1) Soak in the rejection- seriously soak it in. Pretend those vile words of nastiness are your favorite guilty pleasure and drink them up.
2) Allow yourself to react. Don’t be strong, brave, powerful, or whatever for a good couple of minutes. Yell, scream, cry, threaten, punch things (that won’t be hurt or hurt you ;))- but give yourself a set time. I recommend deciding on the time limit before the rejection hits.
3) Cut yourself off at your set time and look for damage. Still breathing? Excellent. No major bloody head wounds? Fabu. Limbs? Check, there should be the same amount you started with. More or less and you’ve got a problem (particularly if there are now more).
4) Since this rejection did no physical damage, now look for the psychological. Ask yourself if this rejection has the RIGHT to attack who you are. NOT your writing, but who you are. Because that’s what happens, and what does the damage. It is our writing that has been rejected for whatever reason- NOT US. Yes, our writing is part of us, but it is not us, one story does not define who we are.
Yes, our books are our babies; we’ve all spent WAY too much blood, sweat, and caffeine on them for someone to not love them and it not hurt like hell. But the books aren’t us. We can write more books, we can fix the current book, or we can find someone who LOVES the current book as it is. Bandage that psyche, and move on.
5) Look for anything of value in the rejection. I have been told that I have a great voice, am a wonderful storyteller, have masterful plotting, great characters, and a fabulous sense of pacing, all by professional agents and editors (sadly, not all from the SAME professional). I have also been told the exact OPPOSITE of many of those things. I take what works to help me grow (and give me the fortification that I’m hopefully doing something right ;))- then dump the rest and keep marching forward.
6) Pity Party-Celebration. Yes, now that you have gone through the rejection checklist, and realized that you survived, and that your writing survived, let yourself celebrate. It can still have a twinge of pity, you took a loss, and it’s ok to grieve. But it should also be a celebration. Whether it’s your 1st or your 500th- each rejection reaffirms who you are. A Writer. Be proud, go out and celebrate, watch a favorite show, eat something decadent, whatever you want (limited time though- ONLY the day of the rejection). You're moving in the right direction- enjoy it.
7) Dust yourself off, pull up your big girl/big boy panties and get back out there. No one is holding a gun to your head to write or submit- YOU are doing it because you love writing and want to share it with others. NEVER forget that.
We write. We get rejected. We keep writing.