One of the toughest things about this industry is forcing yourself to keep going when it seems that everyone is telling you to stop.
Some of you can’t even write, because the weight of rejection can leave you feeling depressed. I mean, who wants to do something you’re constantly told you’re not good at? Right? I get that. However, the more you whine, the less likely you’re going to sit your ass in a chair and get to work. Whining is kind of addictive. The more attention you get, the more you feel inclined to bitch a little bit more. It’s normal. Human, as they say.
But rejection is rarely about you. Keep that in mind. Maybe you find that more depressing. I don’t know. The truth is, when readers don’t buy your book or publishers/agents turn down your submission, it’s rarely about you personally. Even bad reviews aren’t usually about the author. They’re about the reader and the reader’s experience while reading a story. The author doesn’t come into it unless we’re stupid enough to respond to said review.
I’ve had a ton of rejection. In my experience, 9 out of 10 submissions I send out end in rejection. 9 out of 10!! That means, for every 100 I send, at least 90 will be a no. (I choose to view it as “But 10 are a yes, and that’s awesome.) When I was submitting to agents, that number was even more depressing. I stopped trying to get an agent, because it made me doubt everything I thought I knew and, to be honest, made me miserable. I guess I’ll explain that one right now, because I’ve been asked this a few times recently. Why don’t I have an agent? Because, for me, after years of sending queries, I realized the indie or small press route was a better fit for what I was writing. Many of my agent rejections noted that what I sent was great, but not something they felt they could sell commercially. So, I was doing it right, but I had the wrong genre? I don’t know. What I know is that I’ve had more success (although not a shit ton of money) forgoing the big time traditional market. So, I adjusted my goals and I’ve been much happier. Does that mean I’ll never try again? Of course not. I never say never.
My point is, I know where you’re coming from and I understand the utter hopelessness this industry can sometimes make you feel. However, if you give up, or throw yourself a pity party, or you’re sitting there waiting for the “Big Idea” to just happen, you’re going to continue to be depressed and blocked creatively. The whole tortured artist myth is just that; a myth. In reality, that kind of stress makes most of us shut down, so it’s understandable that the ideas just won’t come. Don’t indulge the drama queen in you. Be a grownup and work for it. Seriously, if you really want something, it’s almost never easy.
Instead of bitching and moaning or feeling sorry for yourself, write. Anything. A blog post. A shitty little flash fiction piece no one will ever see. A grocery list. ANYTHING. You have to at least try every day to write. Even when it sucks. That’s the only way that big idea is going to materialize. Your brain (or your muse, if you prefer) needs to keep working at it.
And be positive. To yourself, you can gripe all you want. That publisher is a fucker. That reader is an asshole. You hate everything. Go on. Get it all out. But do it privately and keep writing while you do it. Hey, here’s a fun idea. Write an essay about the unfairness of it all. Let it sit a day. Go back and read it. I’m willing to bet you’ll stop whining when you see how you come across to others, and you might even realize it’s not as dire as all of that. Maybe you’ll re-evaluate your priorities and goals, and come out of it with a clearer idea of what you want out of publishing, or a more positive outlook. Who knows? No one does unless you try.
2 thoughts on “Rejection Depression”
Thanks for writing this, Renee!
So interesting to consider that these same thoughts pass through your head–what with the amount of quality writing you’re getting out there, doesn’t look like anyone is slowing you down! (And from what I’ve read, a 10% success rate is solid!)
Bookmarking this post for applicable days for sure 🙂
As an engineer, many people in my industry fret about networking. Except you only need that one connection that gets you the one job you can do at a time. It’s not like you need to know everyone. And I’ve seen evidence that there’s no point in getting someone to like an invented version of you (sucking up to people etc.) It’s hollow and it won’t take you where you want to go. Accepting that we don’t need everyone to like us is not the same as saying “I enjoy it when people don’t like me.” But it is a sign that a person has enough strength of character to be themselves in the face of dissent. (Though everyone has a threshold amount of “No” that makes them think, “Did I lose it? Am I an asshole?” :P)
Similarly, I don’t see any point in writing anything that isn’t exactly what I want to write, rather than shaping it for the perceived palatability of others. I’ve tried sometimes and I don’t even know how! Plus, like the networking thing, a story only needs one publisher. But it’s difficult, when it’s the tenth-plus submission before acceptance, not to think, “Omg why are you accepting this though??”
It’s also painful to try and make too much sense out of the writing world. I used to feel guilty submitting to magazines when they rejected me, because I thought it was a sign that I hadn’t read enough of the mag’s material and/or written something good enough. But I’ve seen even highly published people talking about how it’s anyone’s guess really.
So I’ve had to simplify it to: work hard and accept any outcome knowing you did your best to shape it in your favour 🙂
(Even though some days you just want to go “AHHHHH!!”)
Yes to all of what you said. I subbed for years, and before around 2016, I got nothing. No acceptances, aside from a couple of shady outfits that paid nothing. I’m not sure what changed, but I think you’re on to something. Maybe it was that one connection or because I stopped caring about making people like me and started writing what I loved writing. My average acceptance rate fluctuates, but aside from a bad day here and there, I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far. 🙂