You Know You’re a Writer When…: Dealing with Rejection – Part I

Rejection. We’ve all experienced it, whether it came from a crush, a potential boss, a high school clique, or, for all my fellow writers, agents and publishers. And it’s likely that no matter how well we maintained our external calm and composure when the axe came down, the internal turmoil was nearly unbearable. “What did I do wrong?” we ask ourselves. “Will I ever be good enough?” “Why do I even try?”

While each of us responds uniquely to different types of rejection, I imagine that it is the kind connected to our foremost passions that stings the worst.

When one becomes serious about pursuing writing as a profession, one hears of the dreaded Rejection Stack, the notorious industry ogre with whom each of us must wrestle along our quest to that far-off kingdom of royalties and advances. One is told to grow a thick skin and not let their writerly sensitivity get the best of them. “Be persistent.” “Be patient.” One is made to believe that if they simply persevere and pay their dues, the gleaming green pastures of Publication Land will one day unfold before their dusty writer feet, and the Rejection Stack and all his terrifying minions of fear and self-doubt will be reduced to a pack of proud Chihuahuas yipping in the distance.

You Know You're a Writer When...

I caught a glimpse of such a land just over a year ago. I’d recently finished the manuscript for Moonbow: The Colors of Iris and compiled a list of agents to query. You can imagine my unparalleled excitement and impromptu white-girl dance when one of the very first agents I contacted asked for the whole manuscript within a week, and soon after became my agent. I could see the pinnacle of the palace. I could taste victory!

Before I go on, I will tell you that I had received puh-lenty of rejection emails in the past regarding my non-fiction books, which blend faith with fitness (too niche, perhaps?) – seven years’ worth, to be exact. By the time this fiction agent agreed to represent me, I felt like every imaginable due had been paid. It was my time of triumph, my time to enter Publication Land and rest on my literary laurels.

Psych! (I don’t mean to sound flippant. Okay, maybe I do, but levity is needed!) For two months, I felt like I was being taunted by intoxicating whiffs of the land I so longed for. The first two weeks after Moonbow went out on submission, my agent received favorable responses from publishers like Bloomsbury, Holt, Scholastic, and Penguin Random House. Obviously, each of them had their reasons for passing on the novel, but they all let me down so nicely and were so darn complimentary that I still felt hopeful that at any moment, another publisher would respond, “Yes! This is a nugget of pure YA gold!”

But three months went by, and the bites became fewer and fewer. Then four months passed, and we heard nothing, and it was clear my agent’s enthusiasm was dwindling.  After eight months, I decided to swallow my pride, take matters into my own hands, and self-publish as I had for two of my fitness books. [1] I felt I had plummeted from the heights of creative ecstasy to the depths of artistic disenchantment. I felt I had held the keys to the kingdom, only to have them snatched away before being banished by the capricious, faceless, all-powerful monarch.

'I wrote what I know. It's about a frustrated author being rejected all the time.'
‘I wrote what I know. It’s about a frustrated author being rejected all the time.’

 

As with every good story, there’s always plenty of conflict brewing for the protagonist. Assuming – and hoping! – I’m the protagonist of my story, what better conflict after this traditional publishing failure (failure may be a harsh word, but it’s an accurate one) than for my agent to break up with me?

It happened just last week. I’d emailed him with the synopsis and sample chapters of my latest completed manuscript, as well as an update on how the Moonbow sequel was going, and his terse response was as follows: “ … Thanks for checking in but I think things have run their course together. I think you should try a different agent here at …”

And just like that, just like your run-of-the-mill breakup text message, the agent who had so believed in me and said Moonbow was sure to be a “key title” vanished like a black knight into the fog, not willing to read another word of mine.

So what did I do? Well, I fought back a few tears. I ended my writing session early and called my husband. I vented. I posted about it on Snapchat (dianaandersontyler) and Instagram because #socialmediaistherapy. And then I took a long, hot, aromatic bubble bath and let worry and stress wash away.

The next morning, I woke up and started writing, because writing is what writers do, no matter what the high men and women on the totem pole say, no matter how tall the Rejection Stack looms, no matter how many times glorious Publication Land eludes them.

I can’t tell you how my story ends up. If I’m going with a three-act-structure metaphor, I appear to be at the end of Act II, you know, where the catastrophic crisis ends, just before the climax and stress-relieving denouement. But who knows. There could be an army of ogres waiting to intimidate and taunt me. Or maybe the gates to Publication Land will be closed off to me forever. But either way, I will write because it’s what gives me joy, and if I’ve learned anything from this entire year-long journey of elevated expectations and dashed dreams, it’s been simply this: writing is my passion, and I will pursue it as long as there are synapses flickering in my brain. And as long as there’s coffee.

Have you encountered rejection yet in your writing life? How have you dealt with it? How has it helped or hindered you? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or tweet me @dandersontyler.

Keep Shining, (1)

[1] These books are Perfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness and Immeasurable Fitness Challenge: 18 Days of Total Health for Spirit, Soul and Body, both available on Amazon.

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