I was watching Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC the other night, as I do pretty much every weeknight these days. I didn’t used to be such a news junkie, but such are the times.
It happened to be a very bad news day in what has been a year-plus of bad news days. At some point during her commentary, after describing the drama and the chaos and the axes (and skies) about to fall, Maddow looked squarely at the camera and addressed her viewers with what may have been tears in her eyes and an expression of exquisite determination.
“Drink more water than usual. Eat your Wheaties, take your vitamins, get some good sleep, talk to your friends …”
Okay, so what does this have to do with the subject of rejection?
Rejection is awful. I probably don’t need to back up that statement. But I know what it feels like to spend months, years, writing a book through your blood and sweat and tears, a book you really believe in, a book you set aside the rest of your life to finish … only to have it rejected by every single agent and/or editor who reads it.
The best advice I ever received on how to deal with this awfulness is to persevere.
Here’s how that works: As soon as you send out a dozen queries to a dozen agents, immediately prepare queries for twelve more agents; that way, when the rejections start coming, you can fill up those dark spaces with new queries, new hope, new possibilities. Repeat as necessary.
If you’re on submission, then as soon as your agent begins pitching your book to editors, you must begin writing a new book. Or a new short story. Or a new magazine article. Anything to keep moving and creating … once again, it’s all about hope and possibilities. This is infinitely better and healthier than biting your nails down to the bone and binge-watching Netflix while not hearing from your agent and not hearing from your agent and then finally hearing from your agent that all the editors have passed for various vague and unsatisfying and your-career-as-a-writer-is-over reasons.
And here’s the most important part of this advice package (which BTW applies to other potential naysayers like readers, reviewers, and book award committees): Do not set aside the rest of your life. Drink plenty of water, eat well, take vitamins, sleep, socialize. Spend quality time with your partners and children and pets. Read good books. Get a massage. Take care of yourself.
Because the rejections may keep coming, but they don’t have the power to gut you or immobilize you or define you. You are not the sum of your rejections. You are you, shining and spectacular as you put one foot in front of the other, tears in your eyes and wearing an expression of exquisite determination … and no agent or editor or other human being can ever take that away from you.
Nancy Ohlin’s new YA series B*witch, with co-author Paige McKenzie, launches in Fall of 2019 from Disney. Learn more at nancyohlin.com.