Thursday, April 12, 2007
The Uses of Self Doubt
That was the title of a seminar I attended last semester. And it was surprisingly helpful, sitting in a roomful of author-hopefuls, listening to a well published author discuss his many (many) rejections. Ten years earlier, he was a student at a fantastic MFA, writing alongside people who have gone on to be wildly successful, while he still struggled. Sure, he's published and well received now, but for a number of years he was like me. Circling around the publishing world, looking for the best (least painful?) way in.

Somehow he turned rejection into a driving force, or he used it to hone his craft - or something. Somehow self-doubt turned him into a better, successful writer - yada yada. All I remember about the seminar is that I felt empowered. If he could do it - suffer through years of rejection - only to come out the other side critically acclaimed and successful - then so could I. After all, haven't all writers, even the great ones, suffered rejections as well? What matters, he said, is getting in the game. Get your work out there.

And so I did. Rather hastily, I played around on Duotrope one afternoon at work and found literary magazines that accept online submissions and simultaneous submissions as well - and I fired away. And now I'm waiting, crouched by my inbox, desperate for a blinking box to pop up that says "you have acceptance" (er, I mean, mail.)

It has been a month, and I'm growing impatient. I told my husband that I don't think I'm cut out for this - I'm far too impatient. Even for rejections. At this point, I really want anything. Shoot my story down already so that I can polish it a bit and then send it back out there. If it's not right for you - so be it. Just let me know so that I can move forward.

My husband asked me to stop torturing myself. To stop waiting for responses. Like I'm miserable. But no, I'm too new and green to this to be miserable (yet) - for me, the newness of submitting work is exciting. Even when the rejections come - at least they're a verification that I'm in the game, that I'm out there, trying. (Note: I may refer back to this post in, say, a year, and scold myself for being so naive.)

So, in preparation for the rejections I'm sure to receive, I've been searching around blogs for posts on their personal experiences with the dreaded form letters, the thin envelopes, the emails that catch you off guard when they blink into your inbox with the cheerful "You've Got Mail" - I've been searching blogs to read other aspiring author's experiences with rejection. Knowing that writers can't resist writing, even about the bad stuff, I knew I'd find a rich resource of rejection woe's in the blogosphere - and I was not disappointed.

Highlights:
A pair of rejection tales, one from a writer and one from an agent discussing how it is to be on the other side of things - when you're the one sending out 100 rejections a week:
What Rejection Tastes Like
The Baseball Metaphor

Distraction no.99 is a site I stumbled upon in my search and enjoyed. She is an emerging writer who so eloquently tackles the joys of attempting authorhood - and she has posted several entries on rejection, a couple of personal favorites here:
Double Rejection Day
Side Effects of Rejection Letters

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4 Comments:

Blogger dillyweed said...

Oh Mella. Don't despair. I'm proud of you for submitting your work again and again.
Think of it like seeds scattered amongst unfertile soil in a harsh literary world. In time, you'll succeed. You are a great writer and I have confidence in your work.
Big hugs. :)

Blogger Mella said...

Thanks Dillyweed! I'm not in despair (yet) over my writings - I have a fairly level head (so far) that tells me that just because a story may be rejected from one market or another it doesn't mean that the story itself is poorly written, only that it doesn't fit that magazine's needs at that particular time.

I believe Steven King was rejected a ridiculous amount of times before he found a place for his first story...though, this may be old writer's folklore.

Don't worry about me. God willing, my writings will find the right homes at the right times. I trust that.

Blogger Susanna Rose said...

I love reading about/hearing about those stories of continual rejection turned into ultimate triumph...you are on the road to great triumph I think with your writing. Just keep on letting us all know when you're feeling unsure you can keep on and we'll keep cheering you on!:)

Anonymous nova said...

Mella, I'm so glad you found me! I wish I had been there at the seminar; I could use the motivation.

I'm wishing you a speedy acceptance on your recent submission...

I, too, am impatient, so I send out simultaneous submissions always, and then I try to go completely blank and forget about it until I hear -- there are many rejections that pile up, but there are also the acceptances, you just have to keep trying (and trying).

I look forward to hearing some good news for you.

-nova/distraction99

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