This post was first published here on April 18, 2009.
Are there any among us who haven't had self-doubts? Is there anyone who is elated to get rejection after rejection? Haven't most of us, at one time or another, questioned this career of writing?
Self-doubt and even depression are normal. Some of us get down after finishing a novel. It may take a while to get started on the next one. We may have periods when we think, "Why in the world am I doing this?" And, certainly, we can have ambivalent feelings about querying. If you're querying agents or editors, it means you've accomplished something and you're ready to move onto the next step. You anticipate replies as you walk to the mail box. And you feel that knot in your stomach as you read the rejection. (And sometimes the elation of the acceptance or check.)
Writers have to handle more than just rejection, though. We have critique partners who disassemble our work, readers who complain about errors or research mistakes, editors who insist on inane changes, bookstores that forget to stock our book or just won't. We tend to work alone at our computers or typewriters. Sometimes our progress seems so slow, we wonder if there's any forward movement at all.
But every time you get "down" or suspect that you must be a second-rate hack or you would be published (or be a best-selling author or at the top of your editor's list or whatever), remember that these feelings will pass. Do something to soothe your spirit.
But do NOT beat yourself up. There are plenty of people out there willing to do that for you. Some of them even enjoy doing it. (Try to cut those people out of your life, or at least limit your contact with them.)
I repeat, don't beat yourself up. We're in a business where we have to live with bad news. But, very rarely, are those rejections directed at you personally. Your article didn't fit that magazine -- but that's not a dig at you as a person. The agent thought your synopsis was a pile of warm spit. Yeah, it hurts. But it's not the end of the world. And in the scheme of your life, it's not a major event -- unless you let it be.
If you take a cat-o-nine-tails and start beating yourself up, you weaken your resolve, you put dents into your armor of confidence, you hurt your inner spirit. Sure, after a rejection, you can take a little down time to recover, but use that time to learn, grow, do something enjoyable, focus on some neglected aspect of your life. Okay, so you're a little down. But if you start kicking yourself while you're down, it'll only be harder to get back up.
And if you’re one of my clients, give me a call. Heck, even if you’re not one of my editing clients, gimme a call. We’ll talk. Or if you live close by, we’ll meet to talk over a mocha coffee. What the heck, we’ll even order it with whip cream.
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that has gone out to subscribers around the globe for ten years. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter.