Healing after rejection

If you witnessed my little breakdown yesterday, thanks for tolerating it. If you commented on Facebook, Twitter, via email or on this blog, THANK YOU.

It’s pretty rare that I whimper publicly, or post anything extremely personal. But yesterday, I felt at the end of my rope, a place I seem to be returning to regularly of late, so I feel the need to explain: This was no regular rejection letter. This rejection came after an initial pass on my manuscript, but with an invitation to do rewrites. I reworked the manuscript for months, resubmitted it, and then waited nearly three months for a response, for a total of nine months before this “no.”

The letter was extremely gentle, but still hurt like #%&@.

And it got me wondering… how do you heal after a rejection?

1) Gather your writing friends. Hearing that they’ve been there, done that is helpful. Misery loves company, if only to remind you that you’re not alone. Family can be helpful too, but sometimes hit or miss. My mother likes to point out how many rejections J.K. Rowling got. Then she tells me to self-publish, and that’s followed by, “just put it out of your mind.” Well-meaning? Absolutely. Helpful? Not so much. I love you though, Mom.

2) Give yourself a treat. Life is hard enough even without rejection crap. This is when having your mom in town is especially helpful. After I went sulking  back up to my office, she made accra, which was one of my all time favorite things to eat when I was a child. Still is.

3) Be real. This is no time to try to be noble and think you should be above comparisons to other writers, or beyond wanting acceptance. What else are you going to measure yourself against, if not the achievements of others? Plus, you’re not writing in your journal. You’re writing to make books. Acceptance is the crux of the thing. Everyone wants to be accepted! So give yourself a break and save being noble for another day. You’re human. Feel your feelings.

4) Go ahead and get angry. For me, that was the impetus to do some research and send out a couple of new queries. For you that might look like screaming at the top of your lungs. You do what you gotta do.

5) Move on. I ended the day, still not feeling great, but working on a new manuscript. Today I feel better, and tomorrow I’ll be better still. The thing to remember is: this too shall pass.

No doubt

I sometimes wonder if rewrites happen because the book isn’t ready, or because the writer isn’t.

Yesterday I walked into a children’s bookstore. Immediately I felt comfortable, relaxed, and inspired. But there was an undercurrent of something else… anguish? dread? frustration? No. It was doubt. Yesterday was a bad time to go trolling around stacks of beautiful, published books because I’m in the middle of writing a novel. And middles are famous for becoming quagmires of doubt and questions. Should I change some of the characters’ names? Should I change the central symbol to something else entirely? Should I amp up the humor in an otherwise creepy book?

Of course everything is worth testing out. Why not? Nothing’s written in stone. But at some point I’m going to have to make final decisions. I can’t work for several more years on recreating this novel while doubt and fear make it hard to move on, and ambition makes me take things a little too seriously. It’s a paralyzing combo, one I’ll have to conquer.

We’ll see what happens, because I’m going to keep pressing on. Of that, there is no doubt.