This writing journey is a painful one and not for the faint of heart. As writers, there are a lot of things stacked against us. We spend hours alone with our thoughts and 95% of the feedback we get is rejection–often generic. As a result, self-doubt and writing go hand in hand, like besties embarking on a long, dark journey.
Every writer has their low points and it’s important to find your way to cope with the bombardment of rejection.
For me, I found a little time and escapism helped: here’s the tale.
My publishing story isn’t an easy one. I’m not the writer who found an agent quickly and signed a book deal the next day. Finding my agent and publisher took time, patience, and perseverance—but that’s another story.
It was the middle of a particularly hard midwestern winter (yar, I remember it well, the winter of ’14) and my manuscript had already been on submission for several months. Rejections had trickled in, most with positive feedback, but all ended in the “not right for our list” rejection. But I was still upbeat because my “dream publishers” hadn’t responded yet—hope still existed.
Dream publishers, you ask? You know how we all dream about where our book would be a natural fit? I had two houses I thought were ideal. I envisioned my book snuggled into their lists, a perfect match. Part of me was confident one of these publishers would snatch me up, so when the kind email arrived from my agent telling me both had rejected my manuscript, I thought Bigfoot had taken her long, gnarly nails and tore out my heart.
I don’t cry a lot (other than at commercials – why must they toy with my emotions), but after that email, I crawled into bed for the rest of the day and wept, pulling it together long enough to parent my littles. All my dreams of publishing glory had burned to the ground—or at least it felt that way.
For the next six weeks I wallowed. As comfort, I started binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I had never watched either series before, but I’m a huge Whedon fan and it provided the necessary distraction. I watched 8-10 episodes a day. I didn’t do much housework, I ate a lot of Cheetos, and I stayed off social media.
On a good day, I showered.
Good days were rare.
I was depressed that my publishing journey had stalled, so I ignored everything pertaining to writing as well as most of my life. Then I was angry at myself for wallowing. I should be stronger, be better, but I wasn’t. So I became more depressed, more angry. It was a brutal circle of despair. But I kept watching those episodes (and eating the Cheetos).
But then something happened as I entered the final seasons. After 254 episodes (yep, there are that many, and they are excellent), I was not the same person. After I watched the finales, there was no more. I eased back into the world with the realization that it was okay if my book was shelved. I could write another, and another. It wasn’t the end, just a different beginning than I had planned.
By letting myself grieve, allowing myself this comforting yet finite escapism, I came out the other side better. It still wasn’t all sunshine and roses and unicorns, but hope had eeked it’s way back in. Plus, I’d just immersed myself in 2 months of awesome storytelling, something I could use in my writing.
So, dear reader, when rejection comes (and it will come), don’t beat yourself up for feeling bad. Sometimes life sucks and you need to feel those feels. Do what it takes to keep writing, to keep working — even if it means doing neither for a while.
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