Rejection 101


WARNING: Pity party in progress!

So…when my first three books were published, I was ecstatic. It was a dream come true. Ever since I was a kid, I used to walk into bookstores and libraries, imagining what my books would look like populating the shelves nestled cozily between Pavlov and Pritikin. It happened, and I thought it was a beginning, the beginning of the writer’s life I had dreamt of since I was old enough to read.

But then…fate or destiny or bad luck or karma or whatever intervened, and now I feel like the ugly girl in the corner at the prom, the one who found the perfect dress, the perfect date, and then got dumped by the punch bowl with a wilting corsage. I have the literary plague. I cannot interest agent or editor, I have received more rejection emails now than I ever did before my “success,” and they all say basically the same thing: love your ideas, love the story, just not crazy about the writing.

Wow. That’s like having someone say they love everything about you except the “you” part.

So, it’s safe to say I’m struggling. I’m teaching creative writing to 80 senior students, feeling like a fraud, feeling like I have no right to be teaching anything, realizing my worst fear: that my success was a fluke, that someone has finally realized what I suspected all along, namely, that I have no talent. I don’t want to believe that…I really don’t. Why? Because I feel like my writing talent is the best part of me. It’s why I’m special. It’s why I was put here on earth, I thought. But now it doesn’t seem like that’s true.

I’m a teacher too, and I fear that maybe I’m “supposed” to just teach. That makes me really sad. I don’t know why. I guess it goes back to what I said when I was in Catholic school. A priest working with the teen group asked us what we most feared. One kid said, “the dark.” One kid said, “mice.” I said, “being mediocre.”

I’m feeling very mediocre right now, because as it turns out, I guess I am. I have to make peace with this and move on. But I really don’t know what to do. Not writing is like not breathing. I guess I could write for myself, but that feels like an exercise in futility, like making a phone call that no one picks up. If anyone has any wise advice, I’d love to hear it. Until then, I guess I’ll wander aimlessly, hoping an aim becomes apparent.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:12:43

    I suspect it’s just a phase you must pass through. There’s nothing mediocre or fraudulent about you! But it may take you a while to feel your way through all these dark emotions until you can believe that again – believe it from the inside, regardless of what these commercial literary pundits proclaim. The more of life’s ups and downs that I experience, the more I realize that a lot hinges on basic bootstrapping – wending our way through the darkness and at some point making the decision not to believe the stuff that makes our guts turn inside out, no matter what. It may be some consolation to remember that some of the greatest artists, writers, composers, etc were not fully appreciated until they had persevered alone for years until recognition finally came. I am sure that if you just keep on writing – for yourself at this point, and for those who have the sense to appreciate you – you will find your way through this dark night. And in the meanwhile, explore it and find out what it’s made of. When you get tired of it, you’ll know what to do and you’ll stop suffering.

    Reply

  2. Susan
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:14:13

    And the disclaimer: I don’t claim this to be wise advise – just a response from my heart…

    Reply

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