Friday, May 14, 2010

You're tougher than you think you are

Earlier this week, I was doing what critique partner Cynthia Reese refers to as “butterfly blogging” – flitting from one delightful blog to the other, sucking up delicious droplets of nectar.

Wait, why does that sound sweet when she says it but dirty when I do?

Anyway, I stumbled across a post from an aspiring author who had just received a rejection.

On one hand, I felt like weeping for her.

The other hand wanted to smack her on the ass and say, “you go, girl!” because it was clear she was already starting to pick herself up and stumble back onto the battlefield.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know my journey to publication was a bumpy one.

Every time my agent would call with bad news – or before that, when agents were the ones rejecting me – there was this moment where I’d just sit there. And wait.

Was I going to cry? Was I going to scream? Was I going to throw my computer off the balcony and go be a pirate instead of a writer?

And though I might have wanted to do all of those things at one time or another, I never screamed, I rarely cried, and sadly enough, I never got to be a pirate.

I was always fascinated by my own capacity for recovering from those crushing rejections. Each time, I’d think to myself I’m not sure I can take another one.

And every single time, I could.

There are a lot of skills you have to develop as a writer. You fine-tune your plotting and characterization. You get the hang of pacing. You learn to write good query letters.

But there’s nothing that really teaches you how to get back up and keep going when everything in you is screaming enough already!

It’s just something you learn to do – to look down at yourself and see the bullet holes and recognize them for what they are.

They’re not life-threatening. They’re a sign of courage. Of your ability to persevere.

And the fact that you’re probably a lot tougher than you think you are.


Alanna Coca said...

Great post Tawna! That that doesn't kill us...

Lisa said...

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Tawna. I believe that just having a chance to write is a great reward, everything else is lagniappe, extra. And let's not forget that a rejection is merely an opinion, that doesn't mean someone else won't like your style. You have to keep at it, that's all.

Karla Nellenbach said...

Aw Tawna. Great motivational speech! I have to admit that I too get the rejection blues from time to time, but then I get all fired up a shout "I'll show you that I can do it!" while shaking my fist in the air. I'm sure it scares the dogs more than anyone who's rejected me...probably because I never actually say it to the rejector. Don't want anyone to catch onto to how psycho I can really know how that is! ;)

Candyland said...

Yeah it's hard. And yeah it sucks. I guess we're (I) addicted to the "no," always hoping for the "yes."

It definitely makes us (me) stronger to pick up, dust off and keep going. Until I can't go anymore.

Michelle Stephens said...

Absolutely spot on. I recently received a rejection myself, but thankfully have learned to just accept it and move on.

Writing is a tough business. Thankfully, we have a great online writing community to give us warnings, advice, tough love, and encouraging motivation.

LR said...

Good to hear. Thanks!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Thanks for the encouragement; it always helps to hear it (or in this case, to read it). I'm in the process of sending my first stories out, and I figure that since they're my first ones they'll probably just get rejected/ignored. But I've wanted to be a writer for so long that I'm not willing to let that go, even if I do get rejected a bunch of times. And besides, I'm too old to audition to be on the Real World at this point, so what else is there to do but write?

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Okay, this was a great post. Thank you so much! We've already put up our This Week for Writers list of best posts, but I'm going to go add this in right now.


Linda G. said...

Wait...there's a pirate option? WHY wasn't I told there's a pirate option? *wonders if it's too late to buy a parrot*

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

What's this pirate option? I'd make a great pirate! No one sent me the memo.

I mean, I write about mermaids. I'm a prime candidate for querying as a pirate!

Muffintopmommy said...

Love this! :) Thanks.

Tawna Fenske said...

Alanna Coca, indeed! Feeling strong yet?

Lisa, thanks!

danicaavet, this is probably a whole different post, but I remember reading that you shouldn't think of rejection as an editor/agent saying, "you suck." It's more like you're sitting down to dinner and pass someone a bowl of peas, and she says, "I don't particularly care for peas, but I'd sure like to try those potatoes." It's personal preference, more than out-and-out rejection.

Karla, don't worry -- they already know you're psycho :)

Candyland, the hope for the "yes" is always the thing that keeps you going a long time after you think you couldn't.

Michelle, ((hugs)) on the rejection. You're right -- it's amazing to have so many resources online to help authors navigate the road to publication.

LR, thanks for reading!

Neurotic Workaholic, that's the spirit! Just don't lose that and you'll be perfect.

Adventures in Children's Publishing, thanks so much for the linkage! I appreciate it.

Linda G, you mean Michelle didn't include the piracy-transition clause in your contract? You might want to talk with her about that.

Karen Amanda, you should definitely consider piracy then. You'd look cute with an eye-patch.

Muffintopmommy, glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Patrick Alan said...

I'm reading Candyland's first two sentences and thinking--

(and when you say "pervert" you really mean "awesome".)

Michelle Wolfson said...

I think I screamed more than you did. And cursed. There was definitely a lot of cursing going on.

Debra L. Schubert said...

So true in so many areas of life... And I agree w/Linda: Pirate Option? Where do I sign, matey?

Cynthia Reese said...

You always grumbled and muttered that you were gonna quit, but I knew you better. I knew you were tough enough. And all the times I grumble and mutter that I'm gonna quit and just take wedding pix on the side, you know I'm tough enough, too. Thanks for kicking me on the backside on as-needed basis.

But, hey, can we at least TRY the pirate option? I so wanna meet Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom.

Patrick Alan said...

I'm really not that tough. I'm crying right now. I think I wiped sunscreen in my eyes again. Aaaaeeeeeiiiiiieeeee!

Delia said...

Damn straight.

Now how do I get Orlando Bloom out of his pirate costume again? Wait...I may have jumped a little ahead there.

Tawna Fenske said...

Patrick, "pervert" always means "awesome." That's why my mother calls me that.

Michelle, I never curse.

Debra, you should definitely talk to your agent about the pirate option.

Cynthia, I don't ever remember considering quitting -- that's one thing I'm sure about. I was damn mad plenty of times, crushed to hell several others, but I know I never once thought of giving up.

Patrick, go get me a pina colada, tough guy.

Delia, first you use your sword to slice off his costume. Then you...

Thanks for reading, guys!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Awesome post. I came here via the link from Adventures in Children's Publishing, glad I did. :)

Claire Dawn said...

I am not at rejection stage yet, but I'm so scared! It makes an unfinished MS seem like a perk! :(

Deborah said...

Amen. Like you, I am either tough - or oblivious - but I can't quit. I tried. It was like giving up oxygen. No can do. Even my family insisted I get back at it. Said I'm much easier to be around when pursing my dream. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Lindsay, thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed visiting the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog, too!

Claire Dawn, who knows? You may be one of the lucky few who escapes rejection and goes straight to publication! Of course, we'll all hate you then, but wouldn't that be nice?

Deborah, keep at it! And keep us posted on your progress!


Always Abigail said...

Awe inspiring post!