Following on from last week’s post regarding the failed novelist, it’s nothing unusual to acknowledge that rejection makes you feel like a piece of crap. That Guardian article only shows just how crushing the disappointment can be, and if you are not careful it can knock you totally off course. There’s always someone waiting in the wings to tell you to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and keep going. Yet, how many times can you be told you’re not good enough to rise into the literary hierarchy before you feel surrounded by an impenetrable wall determined to keep you out of a thriving economy, furnishing just a few, and keep you firmly entrenched in the very ghetto you seek to escape?
You begin to ask yourself how long you can continue to prioritise your writing over a social or family life in pursuit of making your artistic expression your career, and should you just drop it now and concentrate on something more concrete in life, because everyone knows that art doesn’t pay the bills, right? This is where the problem becomes even worse for the writer, because suddenly you don’t just have to persuade someone else you’re good enough and a viable investment, you have to persuade yourself. And in a world that despises those who blow their own trumpets, that is a tough gig indeed. But for an aspiring writer, who else is going to do it?
Sometimes, writing seems similar to Catholicism — we’re intrinsically made to feel guilty from the moment we are ‘born’, purely for daring to exist.
So, this leads me on to my point today. There’s only one way to deal with rejection, and it isn’t about giving yourself a good talking to, nor about plodding on with submitting, nor forcing yourself to write because you ‘should’. This is about taking care of yourself.
You’ve worked hard, you’ve listened to the world on how to be a ‘good’ writer — in all senses of the word — and no one is rewarding you for your efforts yet. You put yourself out there on a regular basis, being braver than many people who have never tried to manifest the dream and instead have settled for their lot. So, reward yourself. You deserve it.
Every time you get that rejection letter in your inbox, treat yourself to something nice. What that something is will very much depend on your budget and level of disappointment. Maybe a choccy bar or a binge watch of a favourite series over the weekend for those short stories that keep coming back. Maybe, for every agent that says, ‘strong writing, but not for me’ go and book yourself in for a massage, or spa treatment. Maybe just allow yourself to read a novel in a weekend (and sod everyone else and the things you are ‘supposed’ to be doing). Read for the pleasure of it, not to learn about writing, not to read it because people say you ‘should’, but purely for the FUN. Do whatever it is that makes you feel … well, hugged, in a way. Metaphorically speaking. Or not.
After a while of this behaviour, rejections should feel like a positive thing. You’ll actually look forward to them arriving, because you know you can treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, or a power tool. Or maybe a weekend away. Just think about all those treats you can look forward to because you allowed yourself to have a reward for all your hard work.
Surround yourself with people and activities that make you feel positive, not ones that offer a ‘poor you’ narrative, because then you’ll wallow whether you mean to or not. Don’t allow yourself to be victimised by rejection. Involving yourself in positives that empower you is where you will redraw your strength.
You can’t keep taking a battering in the publishing ring without strengthening your reserves from time-to-time, and when you feel you are in a good place you’ll get back to it. And you’ll have some fight inside you. And you’ll begin to tell yourself that it’s not you that’s not good enough, that it’s ‘no’ which isn’t good enough for you. And then you’ll make ‘them’ listen. You’ll find a way.
But the best thing of all is that once you dump the sense of duty towards writing when you are feeling kicked in and vulnerable, and return to a position of spiritual strength, the writing will come to you, and you’ll be working on something new, something stronger.
Got any other ways of handling rejection that strengthens your resolve? Please share!