Four years ago I was a part-time teaching, newbie mother of two ready for more; more from the “real” me and ready to embrace a creative energy suffocated by Urb-Burb expectations, thirty-something responsibility, and motherhood.
One December morning while ushering Bubbe down the driveway en route to my work gig and his Fours class at our local preschool, an original story title dropped into my head. The words sounded like something straight out of a child’s picture book.
I have been writing ever since.
I get great joy from piecing together a picture book story. However, as a Fours mommy, yoga buddy, and KidLit publishing veteran kindly forewarned me at the outset, “Next to poetry, the most difficult thing to get published is the picture book.”
Translation? Learn to take rejection.
Aah, yes. Experiencing rejection from literary agents and editors when one is attempting to traditionally publish one’s work comes with the territory, and I have traversed that land more times than I care to count.
Regardless of how many I know who have paid it a visit; Rejection seems perpetually barren when I’m there. It is a lonely place that stings the creative spirit, erodes an already exposed ego, and paralyzes dreams.
When all roads lead to Rejection, I am tempted to curl up and quit; but I don’t. Instead, I take 8 steps and continue the journey.
Step 1: Throw a pity party.
Traces of the endorphin rush filled with hope and possibility that flooded my system upon hitting “Send” disintegrate, replaced by artistic misery when, after investing effort into a project, crafting a thoughtful query, and researching where to place it, the answer comes back
Given the circumstances, wallowing in self pity is natural. So I cry over cookies and cocktails. When the party winds down, I take a deep breath and walk away; the mess can wait.
Step 2: Find a shoulder or seek solitude.
After the party, I reach out to two people; my Dad and Mac. They consistently tell me what I need to hear, “Just keep going. You’ll be alright.” There are days when I don’t feel like talking to anyone. Then I find strength in silence.
Step 3: Say “Thank you.”
From there, I send a professional note of thanks and well wishes to the agent or editor who sent the rejection even if the response is a form letter or the answer took a
In my discouraged state, I try to remember that most people don’t relish in the failure of others and that relationship building and reputation are just as important as a polished, marketable, and unique manuscript. Rejection becomes more tolerable of a place when I build bridges to cross.
Step 4: Make a move.
When the pain dwindles, I know it’s time; time to pull myself up by the bra straps, step into a pair of gritty calloused footie pajamas, zip them up to my chin, and get back to work.
Step 5: Reflect.
Upon giving birth to a picture book manuscript, the last thing I want to do with my precious story is examine its flaws and make changes. Reflecting on rejection is however, a catalyst for growth. It is also a balancing act between an open mind and following one’s gut.
If specific comments accompany a rejection, I comb through them to see what makes sense, face my chronic weakness; submitting before a project is ready and ask myself,
What does this story still need?
Then I write a bit or at least think about writing, and go on to the next step.
Step 6: Get Feedback.
Sometimes I’m more productive when I step out of my head and investigate outside the bubble.
I find it helpful to reach out to writing partners for additional guidance, sign up for professional feedback at conferences, seek out critique opportunities from valued resources, and listen to what the children have to say.
Step 7: Embrace the nuggets.
Through it all, I embrace the positives.
Rejection is laced with signs of life. The first time I graduated from a form to a personalized rejection letter, I viewed it as cause for celebration because it meant I was growing as a writer. Whenever an agent pays a compliment, a contest recognizes a story, or an editor publishes an essay, I am reminded that although my path to picture book publication has yet to be a straight line, it is moving in the right direction.
Step 8: Try again.
To a catch a dream, one must cast a net. Eventually, I submit my work to another agent or editor. And while I wait for that response, I keep a writing schedule, form connections, enter contests, submit blog essays, apply for grants, and build a platform. I continue to put myself out there because in the end, I make my own luck.
Marty McFly moments happen. Just when I think I can’t take that kind of rejection, I do; because I love to write.
Wherever your passion lies, here’s to collecting nuggets, casting nets, and pulling in your 2015 dreams.
Happy New Year!
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