Welcome to Pen to Pen, a new weekly feature on my writing blog where authors stop by to talk about things they’ve learned along the way. Kicking the series off is K.S. Trenten, a wonderfully creative author of queer fantasy that I met when we both were publishing with the now-defunct Torquere Press. K.S. is a valuable part of my writing community, always there with words of support and encouragement when things get tough.
Today, she has some advice for those of us who have experienced rejection. And since that’s pretty much every writer who’s ever tried to get a story published, what she has to say will help a lot of people.
You’ve poured your heart into a story. You’ve worked up the courage to submit it, defying all those nasty little voices inside which are telling you it’s not good enough. You wait, trying to keep the swarm of butterflies fluttering around in your stomach from making you sick.
You get an answer. A letter telling you that the publisher is sorry. Your story has been rejected. You didn’t make it.
What do you do now that your self-esteem has been kicked in the gut?
There are different ways of dealing with rejection. One writer finds comfort in ice cream. Another recommended crying.
I tried copious amount of wine and chocolate. Unfortunately, they only gave me a stomachache and a hangover, making me feel worse. I tried stomping around to Carfax Abbey, snarling ‘Soul to Bleed’. (Actually, this did help me process some of my angry hurt.)
In the end, nothing made me feel better than what seemed like the hardest thing in the world to do. Start writing again.
Don’t get me wrong. You need time to deal with that blow to the gut, to process it. Do what you need to do. I’ve found one of my best ways of processing is writing.
You see, I love this job of ours. I love it enough to keep doing it, even though it doesn’t guarantee me a steady paycheck or a safe future. I love writing so much, I feel out of sorts when I don’t pick up a pencil or start typing after a while.
Is it any wonder it’s the best antidote to my depression?
Alas, it may be hard to do anything, think of anything other than your rejection. It’s too raw and painful. It’s crying out to be purged.
Don’t fight it. Write it.
Get on your computer. Take out your notebook or whatever medium is truly you. Let yourself rage. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself rant. Give yourself some quality wallowing time. Indulge yourself.
Once I’ve insulted myself and everyone who’s ever hurt me, I may find my reason finally catching up with my pain. I start seeing things from the point of view of the person who rejected me. If they’ve got any heart at all, they’re not going to be happy about breaking mine.
I consider the words they used. Did they tell me to go away and never come back? Or did they encourage me to keep submitting to them?
No, they’re not just being polite if they say the latter to you. I’ve met writers who’ve been asked not to submit anything more to the publisher.
If you’ve gotten one of those letters, I’m sorry. Your self-esteem has taken a double whammy. Are you finished, though? Do you want to leave at that?
Why do you write? What do you want when you submit a story?
Maybe you’d rather not bother. Maybe you’re going to try your hand at self-publishing.
Or maybe you want to pick your story up and send it someone else. One publisher didn’t want your story, but another might fall in love with it.
Isaac Asimov once wallpapered his room with rejection letters. J.K. Rowling had a collection, too. Look how big those two made it. Consider what would have happened if they’d given up.
Do you want to give up?
This question crosses my mind whenever I collect another rejection letter. The answer is always the same.
I’m not giving up. I love writing too much to do so. I love my characters too much. I can’t abandon them. I can’t abandon the hope of finding an audience who’ll love them as much as I do.
This is the hope that keeps me going. Find your own hope, your reason to keep writing. Remember, if you can keep going after this rejection, you’ll only get stronger.
There’s nothing more heroic than the character who keeps getting up, every time she’s struck down.
This is true of the writer as well.
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