In my first blog post, I briefly introduced my first Truth of Writing (in case you missed it, feel free to deviate for a moment and catch up here). This Truth of Writing is one of the more important ones, and I feel I didn't quite do it justice with only a small name-drop, so forgive me as we go backward in time and revisit Truth of Writing #1: Not Everyone Thinks You're as Great as You Do.
It's important to note, before going too far down the rabbit hole, that you should consider yourself a decent writer. Without at least a bit of self-confidence, your work will fail to launch even before you ignite the rockets. But there's a fine line to consider here---at what point does your own ego become a hindrance?
Ask any professional writer if they were immediately well-received and successful, and I bet they'd openly laugh and produce a sizable stack of rejection letters. Although it's been a long time since I've submitted anything for publication, I received more than my fair share. In hindsight, I wish I kept those letters instead of discarding them and burying the evidence as far underground as possible. I was an arrogant writer, scribbling massive odes to modernist American poets, all the while thinking my work rivaled theirs, which meant I would be published quickly---right? My pieces lacked my personal style and instead were nearly direct thematic copies of everything the Beats did, minus the fuel of black coffee and endless cigarettes. Somebody needed to put a stop to it. And nothing worked better than a publisher saying, “Thank you for submitting, but this isn't what we're looking for at this time.”
Being rejected and critiqued doesn't mean you're terrible or that you should call it quits before anyone else reads your drivel. It means you should take in the letter's contents and grow from it. If it wasn't right for that publisher, what could you do to make it more appealing to another? Having someone dislike your work teaches humility. Let's face it---you're probably not the next J.K. Rowling, and neither am I. But the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be content with just being yourself.
On a more self-indulgent scale, let's relate this whole emotional cycle with the five stages of grief (because, let's face it, at the time you receive that first heavy rejection, it feels like your funeral). For me, it may have looked something like this:
Ray Bradbury once said, “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” Acknowledging your flaws makes you a better writer. Sure, believe in yourself a little bit, but don't be disappointed when not everyone fights to make you their next big thing. Take your time, listen to critiques, accept that the road to success should never be easy, and that any goal worth achieving is worth the work.
If you have any advice for authors trying to get published, or have a few rejection stories under your belt, please share your wisdom in the Comments section or on my Facebook page!
(P.S. I'm still not entirely over the Cheetos stage, so if you have some of those you'd like to share, too, I'll always accept.)
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.