When you’re an aspiring writer, nothing warms your heart more than tales of famous authors being rejected. There’s the one about Madeleine L’Engle vowing to give up writing on her 40th birthday after yet another rejection, and going on to publish A Wrinkle in Time. And Jane Yolen’s 100+ rejections before the sale of her first poem. And, of course, all those pitiable, self-kicking editors who rejected Harry Potter. The list goes on and on, in tweet after tweet. We revel in such stories not out of snark or jealousy, but out of hope. They give us permission to keep going.
It’s no great revelation that writing comes with bouts of feeling like utter crap. I’d be suspicious of anyone who said stories sprung from them like Athena and self-doubt never crept in at the corners, but I’ve never actually heard anyone say that. Just the opposite, in fact. Writers are an emotionally available bunch – occupational hazard, I suppose – and most freely admit to tunneling into craters of self-esteem, curled up in the fetal position, convinced that all the hours and pages and revisions and workshops have been a colossal waste of time. I found myself in one such crater last night.
I’m working on a middle grade novel these days, and have hit that slog in the middle, that plodding space in between the momentum of a fresh idea and the satisfaction of an almost-there manuscript. It’s where the real work happens, of plotting, resolving inconsistencies, and rounding out characters. Of writing the dull and difficult scenes that I put off until the end. It’s the point when my resolve is most likely to weaken. And last night, it did.
Luckily, I am married to someone who “gets it.” He single-handedly reached down and pulled me up onto level ground. He provided encouragement without veering into flattery. He provided hugs and hot coffee, both sorely needed. And here I am today, writing, thanks to him.
Having crawled out of the crater, my advice is this: if you can’t be married to my husband (and you can’t… back off!), find some source of support for the low times. Look for this source when you’re at a high, so it’s there at the ready when you need it – and you will. It can be a spouse, a parent, a critique partner, a friendly barista, a curious pet, or even an encouraging Twitter feed (there are loads… I like @AdvicetoWriters).
And while I wouldn’t dare include myself in that group of authors listed at the beginning of this post (yet!), these numbers still warm my heart: Bob was rejected 9 times before he found a home at Clear Fork Publishing. I received over 45 picture book rejections before I sold a manuscript. (And don’t even get me started on middle grade. I haven’t counted, but it might be in the triple digits at this point. I’ll save that for another post.) And these numbers increase by the day. But it only takes one yes.
Permission to keep going granted.