I received my first ever official rejection today.
I feel pretty good about that. Great even.
I know. It’s weird, but it makes sense really.
Let’s take a look at the process of writing as I understand it.
- Get an idea.
- Start writing something based on that idea
- Finish that something (manuscript, short story)
- Edit/polish that something
- Send it out and keep sending it out (within reason)
Now most people, basically 9 out of 10 people in the world get to step 1. Everyone asks about ideas and no one realizes that GETTING an idea is the easiest part of the whole writing process. I underlined and bolded that part because I really want it to stand out.
A lot of people make it to step 2. They’ll put some words down. This is big. Facing the blank screen is, in my honest opinion, the toughest part of the process for a beginning writer. This is where your inner shithead will come along and do what he does. Your mind will be flooded with questions like the following: “Is it perfect?” “does it suck?” “should I really be doing this?” or “what do you know about writing?” and the questions will be followed by shithead statements designed to stop your progress like: “You can’t string two words together, this sucks.” “it doesn’t make any sense.” “there’s no way you’ll finish an ENTIRE book!” or my favorite “everyone will hate this and laugh at you”.
Obviously, not many people make it past step 2.
I’ve been hitting step 3 a lot, without too much trouble. This is where experience and my NaNoWriMo experience comes in. If you can get your inner shithead to shut the hell up, you CAN finish it. Step three is an incredible rush the first time you polish off a novel. This is the step that gives you the first and most important payoff to the novice writer. Congratulations, you made it to a point most people never get to. You have mastered your inner shithead and persevered.
Getting to step 3 is all about mastering your inner shithead.
Step 4 seems to be easy for some, harder for others. It’s hard for me and so far I’ve sucked at it. This is the step I’ve been stumbling on for most of my projects prior to this year.
Step 4 is where the fear kicks in for me.
If you stop here, there’s no danger, no risk. Anyone who reads what you write can’t really say anything bad about it because “it’s just your first draft”. Your ego cannot be hurt. You can’t even say you did your best because you haven’t yet taken your draft and worked on it to make it just so.
Step 4 claims a lot of new writers from what I can tell. It’s way too safe. It’s comfortable because you have the satisfaction of having written something substantial, but there’s no danger of getting rejected.
Don’t stop here. I promised myself that I would no longer stop on step 4.
Step 5 is the big one. That’s where you’ve done your best and someone you don’t know will read it and likely reject it. This is the step where it can hurt.
If you get to step 5, you win. Rejection is not a loss.
Here’s how I look at it:
Everything up to step 5 is up to me. If I send out a story, I’ve done what I can. Everything else has nothing to do with me, it’s in the hands of a stranger.
That is a clear win. It’s a win and you need to see it as such.
Now let’s talk about those rejections.
Writers, even famous ones, deal with a lot of rejections on a day to day basis. I’ve wondered if I could handle that. Until you get that first one, everything is up in the air. It’s all untested bravado.
I’m happy to say, it’s all good. It feels like I expected it to feel and I’m doing what I expected to do.
Here’s what I will do:
I’m going to take another look at this short story (a short look) and send it out. Again and again. I have a list of places all set to go. If no one accepts it I have a plan.
I’m going to set it aside and write something else.
Here’s the thing, if you keep doing that eventually something will get published. If you keep writing and improving and finishing and sending something out, something will sell.
You do what you gotta do.
That’s what a writer does.
I am a writer.
You can be too.