Friday, June 28, 2013

Finding a Balance between Acceptance and Rejection--Seesaws in the Writer's Life

At a writer's conference recently, I sat in the audience and listened to a panel of four agents.  They fielded questions and then began to speak about the of-so-difficult process of acceptance and rejection.  Expect rejection as part of the journey, they said, in many different ways. 

Why does an agent "fall in love" with a book?  Why doesn't she or he?  What is the magic that makes the process work for everyone?



Most writers dream of "being picked," as Seth Godin would call it.  Someone will read their book manuscript and recognize its potential, make them rich and famous and able to return home with awards.  Most beginning book writers obsess about this--they see the golden road to fame and fortune and not the hard work that book-writing takes.

Agents are always quick to remind writers of the hard work, the years of craft building and refining that come before the magic happens. 

I would add that craft building is only one half of the equation.  A writer who is going to hang in for the long haul also needs stamina with acceptance and rejection.

An Attitude of Detachment

A reader in New York told me about a new novel by first-time author Kathleen Grissom called The Kitchen House.  He sent me a kind email this week with some words of wisdom about the writing life from Grissom, posted in an interview with her on Amazon.  Her book was named one of the "Best of 2013 So Far." 

Grissom wrote:  " If you feel called to write a book, consider it a gift. Look around you. What assistance is the universe offering you as support? I was given an amazing mentor, a poet, Eleanor Drewry Dolan, who taught me the importance of every word. To my utter amazement, there were times she found it necessary to consult three dictionaries to evaluate one word! Take the time you need to learn the craft. Then sit down and write. When you hand over your completed manuscript to a trusted reader, keep an open mind. Edit, edit, and edit again. And, of course, never give up."

Never give up.  Sound advice.  For me, not reality, though.  I give up about every other day, deciding my current book-in-progress is a LOT worse than I suspected.  I am convinced that everyone thinks so, and I've been fooling myself about any possible writing ability I might have.

After the tantrums and tears and stomping around my writing room, I usually take a break from writing and come back to it later.  Of course, I say hello to the manuscript again and feel more accepting of it, less rejecting of myself. 

Giving up is a regular writing activity.  The reason I've published 13 books and am on my way to my 14th is simply this:  I've learned how to tolerate the break-ups with my creativity.  And know that I will let myself come back to it after a small period of agony. 


Your Weekly Writing Exercise

Rejection can actually be the doorway to new levels of our creativity.  A first step is to consider this idea:  What if rejection of ourselves and our book is part of the creative process? 

What if our job isn't to avoid rejection--stay safe, never put ourselves on the line, never reach for a bigger goal or risk being a beginner.  Our job is to accept our rejections and let them pass through.  Then begin again.

There's a belief I subscribe to:  being rejected, passed over, not chosen is a closed door but often, looking back, rejection has forced me to be more creative.  I've often come back from a rejection with renewed enthusiasm to make my writing better--to find help, to get more skills, to try again.  Rejection takes me away from complacency.  I learn not to take anything for granted.

This week, make a list of times you've been rejected.  Maybe in your life in general, maybe with your writing.

Then, after each item, see if you can write down something good that came because of it.  


For those of you in the States who celebrate Fourth of July, have a great holiday weekend.  This weekly blog will resume after the holiday.