There have been several folks in my past who have watched me fall off my damned horse, dust off my chaps and jump right back on. Those folks who have watched my falls time and time and time again are left wheezing and wincing and shaking their heads and asking in whispers, why does she keep doing it?
Those falls are a culmination of different events, auditioning for plays, trying to get into college, trying to be a writer, submitting my writing for submission, and most recently submitting to obtain representation.
When I was a gypsy spirit right out of college, when I was trying to get a grasp on this whole writing thing and how it went, I would spend hours at Boarders Book Store with The Writer’s Market (I couldn’t afford that obscene tome in those days.) I would study that writing bible from cover to cover, making notes, figuring out the best places to send my work.
Then I would send out my work by the armfuls. In those days, the inter webs were not being used as efficiently as they are today. So each of my submission would require a self-addressed stamped envelope included, you know so that if I received any sort of bad news, it would be in my own writing.
Then the armfuls of submissions would come clawing their way back to my doorstep with ‘thanks no thanks’ form letters written in the blood of Times New Roman type face.
It stung, those rejections, but if I’m being honest, I learned a whole hell of a lot.
I learned that rejection wasn’t personal.
I learned what the industry was looking for, in the realm of the short story.
I learned that I can take a punch to the kidneys and shake it off.
I learned how to write better.
I became stronger all around.
And then a few of my stories got published.
As I wrote short stories and submitted those, I was also working on figuring out my voice, how to write a book, how I write a book.
The first book was finished and I learned a few more lessons.
I naively tied the second draft of my very first book up in a ribbon and sent off my query letter and the onslaught of “Thanks no thanks” letters came flooding back in.
I was crushed, but I got back up and looked at what I was doing, how I was doing it and started doing some more research.
And I wrote another book, this one was better than the first.
And the third book I wrote was even better than the first and second.
Here I am, so many years later, so many books under my belt, so many rejections unceremoniously thrown in a rather large binder, and I’m still learning about how this whole system works, and how I work inside the cogs of this machine.
I recently got a rejection this past Thursday that rocked my world, beat me upside the head, bruised my ribs, knocked out a few teeth and left me in a curled ball on the floor in tears.
An agent at a pretty big agency who had been very receptive to my query letter, my first 100 pages, had finally requested the whole manuscript. I heard back from her, after a two month wait.
Thanks, no thanks.
I had made it through so many more levels of this game where the ultimate goal is publication. I swam through the alligator infested moat, I fought the demonic gate keeper, I hastened through the Sleestack populated court yard, after trying every door in the castle, I found the key, fought the dragon who stood watch over the door, and turned the key.
I had the wrong castle all along.
The rejection this time wasn’t something that bounced off my skin. It hurt. I hurt. The exhaustion of my quest seeped into my soul. My gut screamed out that it was time to tell the world if you have a dream give up, give up now.
I had a wonderfully internalized pity party for one. For two days, I fought my inner demons and made a mess of my head.
Damnit to hell
I’m a warrior.
I’ve chosen this path. I’ve known from the beginning that writer’s get rejected. The rejection make a writer better. Stronger. Rejection actually teaches lessons.
So now, on this day when I supposed to begin the 30 days of writing a book, I’m not in the mood. I’ve allowed rejection to win. And it happens sometimes. Sometimes rejection takes a little bit to shake off.
Oh, I’ve decided I’m going to continue the fight, but I need to stand in my corner for a little longer and get my footing back.
Because Thursday night, I was off my horse once again, in the dust. Defeated, ready to give up.
Well today I need to look at where all this hard work has gotten me.
I can open most literary agent’s doors with my query letters.
I can get most of them to look at the first 50-100 pages of my manuscript.
I can get most of them to ask for the full manuscript. And the tone in all of my rejection letters has changed dramatically.
There is no more form to the letters, they are personal and positive.
This past Thursday a damn agent said this about my work:
“I’ve taken a look at your book, and while I really love your voice, I’m afraid I had trouble finding the premise believable at times. And for the reason, I’m going to have to pass. I truly think you have something special here with your writing…”
Guess what world, I’m a writer who has something special with my writing voice.
The key might not have worked when I arrived at the door guarded by the dragon, but that’s because the door was open. I sure didn’t find what I was looking for behind the door, but there was indeed a clue left behind for me.
I’m on the right fucking path.
So today, I wipe my bloodied nose, dust my ass off and jump back on my horse. I’ll put on my vest made of rejection, my badges of honor shining in the sunshine.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll stop with the half assed metaphors. I have a book to write.