Friday, October 02, 2009

Numb

Just typing that title reminds me of my favorite U2 video from the late 90s - the Edge doing his monotone rap type thing while people abuse him. He just sits there and continues singing while children hit him, women fondle him, and his bandmates torture him. Not that this has anything to do with my blog today, but the writer's mind is a vast and complicated roadmap with many tangents to go off on.

Anyway... I have been writing for years. I started my first real, honest to goodness book in 1998. I'd always piddled with writing but this was the first time I sat down with the intention of writing a full, 400 page novel. I believe I finished it in 2000, and it was crap, but that's when I started writing. I started seriously pursuing publication around 2003 after I finished my master's degree and had time to think and breathe again. I found RWA in 2004 and went from there.

Since I started, I've written (including the crap) 9 books. A couple of them have been so thoroughly re-written that they should actually count as another book entirely, but for purposes of simplification, just 9. Out of those nine, I have queried or pitched 6 of them. (Two were sequels that hinged on the first one's acceptance and one was recent and waiting on the outcomes of other projects.) Out of those, I've had full requests for 4 of them, a couple more than once. Of those full requests, partials and queries, I've gotten multiple rejections. So many, PC and I are actually doing a workshop on what you can learn from rejection. How awesome is it to be qualified to teach that, eh?

At the beginning, the mere thought of sending my baby out into the world stopped me cold in my tracks. Once I handed it over to the postman, I felt a sense of dread that would pool in my stomach and stay there for the 3, 6, or 9 months it would take to hear back. Obviously since I haven't sold, they've all come back with rejections so far. The rejections used to knock me for a loop - send me straight to my friends Ben and Jerry - and keep me from writing for weeks.

Lately, not so much. I got a rejection last week and I didn't blink. I hadn't put 100% of my faith behind this submission, but still... I opened the email, read it, nodded as I saw what I expected, and went on with my day. This is not to say that if my most promising submittals came back with a rejection, I wouldn't be completely devastated - I would. But every single roadblock doesn't bother me so much. I think the introduction of e-queries has contributed to this. Now, with little effort, I can send off my query to 15 agents and get rejected at record speed. Seriously - I think I got a rejection back from an agent in less than 3 minutes. Impressive.

It's working both ways, too. Requests don't thrill me as much either. Mailing off my manuscript doesn't make me nauseas. I don't agonize over it like I used to. It is what it is. I'll sell or I won't. I'm hoping this is me growing as a writer and knowing that rejection might be less about me and my skills than it is about having the right project with the right editor at the right time. At the same time, I worry I may just be getting numb to the whole process. Disillusioned, perhaps. I've been at this a long time. Much longer and I'll be one of those people who do workshops on how I motivated myself to keep writing until I was successful after a decade of disappointment.

I guess that U2 video is more applicable than I thought. I think I've finally learned to be like the Edge - I just keep writing even if Bono starts screaming in my ear. Anyone else experience this or am I just the sole jaded one? Have you learned to push through a situation and not let setbacks disappoint you?

SP

Don't forget to check back in next week as we launch our new theme week on the blog. Exciting topics and prizes are on the horizon, so don't miss it!

15 comments:

Stephanie said...

I appreciated your thoughts on how while the downs don't seem so low neither do the ups seem so high. I think your use of the word jaded makes me a little afraid as well. I like to think of it as gaining professionalism and faith that our writing will sell. You have certainly given me a new fear...Thanks!

I agree that the electronic submission/query process had made things a little simpler-maybe we feel less invested simply because it is a less painful submission process.

I DO know that so far Writing Partner and I have sorta taken turns with getting discouraged or upset when we have gotten rejections. We have also tried, as you said, to learn something from the rejections, if possible.

Smarty Pants said...

Here's the U2 video for fun:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWHwI-Hvpzo&feature=youtube_gdata

Stephanie, don't fear it. Jaded is probably too strong a word. I think that I'm learning and growing, getting more confidence in my project. I'm also getting more knowledge in the business side of writing, which is what this is all about.

Problem Child said...

Just remember: The Universe is unfolding as it should.

Just think, this is what helps you build your tough skin for when reviewers don't like your book or a reader takes you to task over something. Oh, and even after you sell, your editor can still hate something you send her...

Smarty Pants said...

Thanks for the pep talk, PC.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I wouldn't call it numb or jaded. Rejection is a part of the business, before and AFTER making that first sale. Learning to look at rejection objectively -- not the right place, not the right time, nothing personal -- is necessary to survival. And sanity. :-)

LJ

Angel said...

I have to admit that I'd silently experienced this same phenomenon and wondered what was wrong with me. :) The part that disconcerts me the most is the lack of enthusiasm over my submissions. I just don't get my hopes up any more and forget about them pretty quickly. I think this has just been a sanity-saving device, more than anything. My brain's way of short-circuiting my angst (as if I don't have enough angst in my system already). :)

Angel

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with you. I think this is exactly what is supposed to happen. You are a professional, and you aren't taking it personal. This is the single most important attitude shift, IMO, that a writer can experience. It means you will keep writing, and keep submitting, and eventually, you'll get the YES you've been waiting for.

And like PC says, it's good practice for after you publish and life isn't perfect. People will hate your books. And they will tell you about it. It's like the mean contest judge gone wild. :)

Playground Monitor said...

Maybe "accepting" is more appropriate than jaded. You know how the system works and you've accepted it.

I've only submitted (and had rejected) the one book, but I think watching you guys go through the process helped put it into perspective for me. While I harbored dreams of selling that book and even delivering a touching acceptance speech at the Rita awards, I also knew the chances were good it would be rejected. That hurt, but wasn't the end of the world. Maybe current life circumstances also put that into perspective as well. Who knows? I just know I'm eager to get writing again and submit another one.

Smarty Pants said...

I'm glad to hear this is normal. When I tell people that sometimes I forget I have manuscripts out to here and there, sometimes I get weird looks. I have too much going on to sit and think about it all the time, especially when I've waited to long to hear on some of them. Life goes on.

Vivi Andrews said...

My first rejection was a tragedy in my own eyes, but now, years and stacks of rejections later, I have a much more balanced look at things.

That's how I think of it. Not as numbness, but that I've found my equilibrium. Rejections are just part of this business and now I can roll with them in a cool, professional way.

Kim Law said...

Definitely (in my opinion) is just you growing as a writer. You've learned what it takes in this business and are professionally going about the business of reaching your goals. You aren't taking it personally (excellent), and you are seriously working on that tough skin for when you do get published. I've noticed I do a lot of the same things. And I've also noticed that when I don't get my hopes up as much, usually there's some nagging reason - like I really knew it wasn't good enough even though I went ahead and sent it. I try to learn from that too, and learn to listen to my subconscious more.

Jeannie Lin said...

You've really captured what it feels like to be in the grind, aka the query wars. We get shell shocked after a while, don't we?

A writing buddy and I were chatting about this and saying the rejections didn't hurt anymore. But when a particularly hope-filled submission came back with an R, it still does sting. Fridays seemed to be the worst! It's when agents seem to catch up on projects.

What inspired me to keep going was a video I saw with Sherrilyn Kenyon where she talked about getting rejected over a hundred times in one year. When I saw that, I thoughtI shouldn't get discouraged until a project has been rejected 100 times. If it can happen to Sherrilyn...

I tried to find the interview, but couldn't.

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

The fact you're still putting the work out there means you still have hope. As long as that lives, no matter what you do to protect yourself otherwise (and numbness is just a mechanism to handle pain), you'll be fine.

Kathy said...

Channel Al Franken and look in the mirror and repeat... "I'm a good writer. I've got oodles of writing peeps. And, dog gone it, agents and editors WILL publish my books."

You know where I stand on this, SP. You're AWESOME!!

PM's Mother said...

You win some; you lose some; and some are rained out...so get on with life!