On accepting the marathon between the sprints

good enough

Last night I received a rejection letter.

At this point in my writing career, I’m pretty thick skinned. I’ve been rejected hundreds of times and I still have four published works and several published short stories and poems. I know that rejection isn’t the be all end all. Still, this one hurt, and I’ll tell you why.

Just kidding. I’m not going to get into specifics-that’s not professional. What I will say is that the pain came more from my own laser focused attention on that particular submission. Instead of living my life as I ought to I instead spent every other minute refreshing my email or daydreaming about how great my life would be once my contract was sent over. I did this day in and day out. Every day that I didn’t receive a response was agonizing, because it meant that I won myself another day in limbo, waiting, waiting, waiting.

I imagine many of the writers that did get rejection emails during this time are throwing popcorn at me right now. That’s fair-carry on.

This particular submission came with a three month response deadline, so I knew that even if I had to keep waiting, there would be an end, and it came very, very slowly. On the day the deadline was set I stared holes into my computer screen and even tweeted about the experience, which I normally don’t do. I wanted it. Bad.

Then…nothing. Nothing happened. The days kept passing, and I still heard nothing. It was like being in the ninth month of pregnancy, where everyone around me kept asking, “Any word yet?” and I would sigh and tell them no, still nothing.

It took two more months to get to today, where I now know that my book will have to find a home elsewhere. After six months of waiting in a fever dream of hope and nerves and anxiety, my suffering was ended (and expedited) with a nicely worded email explaining why I didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

I’m telling you this story because as a writer, you are going to need to train your mind for a marathon. It’s not easy. You will get to mile twenty and stumble. You will wipe out, and you won’t see it coming. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok. You are going to face heartbreaking rejections, and after spending half a year of your life wondering, you may learn that all your thoughts and positive affirmations were for naught, and you are back to square one.

There is a reason so many people give up on writing. Do not do this. Do not go to the couch and grab your potato chips and phone it in-I’m sticking with my metaphor, see? Stand up, brush yourself off, and begin again. As my dear friend (not really) Rudyard Kipling says in my favorite poem:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

And so on. You get the point here. Writing is hard. Querying is hard. Rejection is hard. Being an author is hard. It’s also the greatest thing you can ever do, and I would rather fail at it every day than succeed at anything else. And so-

Back to square one, and forward ho.


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