If you are like me then you are my doppelgänger, and I am going to have to destroy you to absorb your power. Like Jet Li in that movie. Was that Jet Li?
Anyways, if you are like me then you are a writer. Maybe you’ve had some success publishing, maybe not as much success, or maybe none at all. But there is one thing as writers (and I guess largely as a people) then you have felt the bitter sting of rejection.
Maybe that short-story wasn’t up by Tin House.
Maybe you didn’t get that job as a reporter for The New Yorker.
Maybe your essay wasn’t picked up by the New York Times Magazine, or Granta.
And, maybe, your script wasn’t bought up by a major film company or television studio.
But that’s okay. You’re upset. You’ve just received that form letter indicating that, “we’re sorry to inform you that while we loved reading your submission, it wasn’t the right fit for our publication at this time.” Now your heart is racing and your anxiety disorder is telling you that you’re having a heart attack (you’re not) and even though it’s not quite five o’clock (more like 3:45 p.m.) you want to crack a bottle of beer…or whiskey…or vodka.
Well, go for it.
Because you know what else you’re going to do? You’re going to keep writing; keep submitting. You’re going to huff and puff until finally you blow the damn house down. Because that is what we do as creative people. We try and we fail. And there is nothing wrong with trying, and failing, as long as we try and fail again and again. Eventually something good will come of it and you’ll think, “I’m glad I pushed myself.” The key is never doubt your abilities.
For too long I was afraid to put myself out there even when my better judgement told me that if I truly am a writer, I’d have to ignore my anxieties and just do it. Some days are easier than others but I try to work everyday, whether it is writing or editing. And then I send something out into the world. When I get a response telling me that they regretfully cannot publish my work, I angrily bite my knuckle and give myself five minutes to grieve. I look over the work. If I don’t see any obvious flaws – just because X doesn’t want to publish your stuff, doesn’t mean Y and Z won’t – I submit it to another publication. Or send it to a peer to get their input.
After that I usually eat something because eating something makes me feel better. Then I go out and live a little. I meet up with friends, walk the dog, go see a movie and grab dinner with my girlfriend. What I am doing is stepping away from being a writer and just being a person. It feels good, and normal, and clears the head. The dropping sensation in my chest goes away and I get my breath back (unless it’s -10 outside). It also allows me to see the outside world and, maybe subconsciously, take notes. This helps the writing in the future: having somewhat of a life.
What I’m saying is not to stew in your failed attempts. Learn from them and move forward. Why am I writing this? Because I know you are like me, but also, because sometimes I need to take my advice.
I’ve lived the above day in what might be considered a deleted scene from the film Groundhog Day. Sometimes I doubt what I am doing and then I become an uncomfortable grudge of a person. Sure, while you’re watching Downton Abbey with some friends over a bottle of chardonnay, somewhere in the back of your head you think, “I wonder if I’ll hear back from [insert publication here] tomorrow?” I can’t convince you that won’t happen, but I can help you work past it. You cannot doubt what it is you have passion for. As I said earlier, you have to own up and embrace your mistakes and failings because, one day, you’ll be celebrating your successes.
And if that doesn’t work you can always blog about it.