In last week’s blog, I agonized over an e-mail from my editor, which I had taken as “critical”. My writing group tried to reassure me that all the e-mail had meant was that I was going to get an editorial letter. I didn’t need to take it as a rejection.
Then the letter came. In it, helpful suggestions were provided, detailing how I could make the book better. While I shouldn’t over-generalize the comments—interpret that all my writing is a flop--I need to deal with the fact that the book still needs some work. Or it needs to find a different editor.
A discussion took place recently through an on-line writers group about rejection and final publication. The question was posed about writers’ experiences in sending out books, having them rejected, and then getting them published somewhere else. One woman said that she had sent her story out to 33 different editors before it was accepted. She did not make significant changes in it during this time. Even Harry Potter was turned down by a number of editors before it was purchased. I’m sure those editors probably regret it now. But they were making the best decision they could at the time. They formed their opinions and made a decision. Not every decision works out all the time. That’s the way life works. It is not perfect.
In group the other week, we discussed failure and the definition each girl uses when looking at if they have failed and if someone else has failed. They had clear double standards in this area. For them to be able to consider their actions a success, they had to achieve perfection. For someone else to be a success, they had to have tried. Look at how much harder they make it for themselves!
Perfection is not possible. Rejection and disappointments will happen. The discussion in the group turned to how Dr. Gorman and I handle disappointments. We talked about the necessity of sometimes sitting with uncomfortable emotions and then planning a strategy to move ahead. One needs to acknowledge feeling depressed or defeated, sit with that difficult feeling. But not hang onto and let it color everything. For me, I was disappointed that a book which I had been working on for years still needs work. I can either make the changes or not. I need to form my own opinion, but use the information that has been given to me. Then I need to form a plan to move ahead. I either send it to another editor as is or I make some changes. Recently the story has been mulling around in my mind and I do now have some new ideas to bring to the book. Sit with your emotion, and then brainstorm a plan to move ahead.
So…How do you deal with disappointment or rejection? Write about a time that you felt hurt, criticized, or let down. Did you over-generalize; take the comments as bigger than they were? Did you try to push away your feelings because they hurt? Are you hanging onto some of that pain? Describe what happened, how you felt and what you did. Can you brainstorm and find new ways to deal with the situation?
What is the hardest feeling for you to sit with? Anger, embarrassment, depression…? Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and think about it. Whatever emotion comes to mind, write about that? Don’t think too much—don’t let your critical mind tell you that’s not what you should write about—just write. What memories are associated with that emotion? Put down what comes to mind. Take 10 or 15 minutes or even 5, but write for the whole time. Don’t critique what you’re writing. This is not supposed to be perfect. It is supposed to be real. It’s supposed to be what’s there inside of you. If when you look back you made a slip and wrote one word for another---dead instead of dread for example. Then journal about the word that you did write. Was your mind trying to tell you something? Writing about that might lead to new thoughts or memories.
What are you feeling? Close your eyes and give your feeling a color, a sound, associate it with an animal, a season, a location, a plant…whatever you can think of. This might give you a clearer sense of what you’re feeling moment to moment. One woman found in a group how much she was struggling with depression when the color of how she was feeling kept coming out gray. But before that, it was hard for her to describe her emotions. She didn’t have a good sense of the words to use. How about you? Do you need some new ways to help you discover how you feel?
My mood was gray before when I got the letter, but now it’s a deep purplish-blue, like a summer’s night with the sun just setting. It is a vast expanse of possibility with stars shimmering to remind me that new ideas and creations are out there and often twinkle out of the darkness. My mood as a rosy hue around the edges—the creative fire. And I know that I’ll make my book as good as I can and I’ll ride the rejection roller coaster and it will be all right.
So…now it’s your turn…go…
Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.