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Thursday, July 1, 2010

How do you deal with rejection?

You'd think that after dealing with more than a year's worth of rejection for my first novel, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, before it finally got picked up by MTV Books that I would have this handling rejection thing down pat.

Not so much. I'm an emotional Cancer girl. I'm a volatile creative type. I still suffer from really low self-esteem at times. Rejection, bad reviews, and the general instabilities of being a writer (not having any control about how many copies of your book are printed, how it is promoted, and whether you will ever make something resembling a living off of it) always send me into a horrible tail-spin. I can't tell you how many times I've considered throwing my pen (or laptop, I guess) down and quitting because clearly I am Not Good Enough.

But the thing is I can't quit. There is always a story that needs telling. While I was trying to figure out an alternate career path and berating myself for spending so many years and so much money on not one but two degrees in Creative Writing while IWBYJR wasn't selling, I was also writing BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Because I couldn't NOT write it.

So I guess that is when I developed my two prong approach to coping with rejection:

1. Freak out.

2. Write my way through it.

More often than not, I am doing both at the same time.

I freak out in different ways to different people. My agent gets the emails where I try to figure things out. My critique partners and writer friends get the emails that are part plans-of-action, part rants about the unfairness of it all. My husband and mother get the full-on nervous breakdowns.

And then I piece together the plans that I make with agent and critique partners, as well as the writerly sympathy, advice and anecdotes from critique partners and writer friends and the plain old cheerleading and nurturing I get from husband and mom and I go back to work.

I was lucky after IWBYJR sold. I got a teeny bit of respite in that BALLADS OF SUBURBIA sold before IWBYJR even came out. For about a year there I was floating on cloud nine. Then IWBYJR got some bad reviews (don't get me wrong, it got lots of good ones, but I really focused on the bad ones for awhile), the print run for BALLADS got cut, and at the beginning of this year, my third book got it's first rejection. I only freaked out a little bit with that one because I already had an idea for tweaking it and selling it as a women's fiction book rather than a YA and I had this brilliant idea for another YA that I was already writing.

Then the partial for that YA went out on submission and started piling up rejections. When my dream editor said no to it. I lost it. Worst nervous breakdown yet. But somehow, I got up the next morning and continued work on my revamped women's fiction project.

The rejections kept coming and I kept writing. I took what I could from them to strengthen my writing in general and I will steel myself and look at them again for more specific pointers in the coming weeks. Once the women's fiction project goes out, I will turn back to that YA project. The partial has been rejected by 11 editors, but most of them requested to see the full if if I write it. So I'll will. Because I have to. Because it will keep me strong while the women's fiction project inevitably picks up some rejections. Because both are stories I need to tell.

I will cry. I will write angry emails and emails questioning my abilities as a writer. I will write brainstorming emails. I will eat too many salty things on one day and too many sweet things the next. I will do kickboxing workout DVDs to work through the aggression (and the over-consumption of salty and sweet things). I will probably drink too much on at least one day and keep my husband up all night as I alternate between rage at the unfairness of it all and depression that is nearly as bad as it was in my teenage years. The next morning, I will be hungover and sulk on the couch watching bad TV.

But ultimately I will drink lots of tea and sit down at my computer. I will get lost in the story and hanging out with the characters that I love. I will continue to write because I have to, because their story needs to be told, because despite my often pessimistic, volatile Cancer artist girl personality, I believe that an editor will see that too.

1 comment:

Jan Blazanin said...

What is it about those negative reviews that sticks in our brains? Sometimes I feel like they're Super-glued to my gray matter!