This month, my literary agency asked its’ authors to feature a guest blog post on various topics and my assignment was “How do you continue to go on after you’ve been told NO?”
Here was my response:
How do I go on?
It’s simple: Either you find the strength to persist as a writer or you don’t.
So what happens if you don’t? Logically, nothing bad will actually happen to you – you will not dissolve in the sunlight, your life will not end, and you won’t turn into a pumpkin at midnight…But something far more insidious may happen to you: You become an empty shell.
If you are an artist and you are called to write, something whispers inside your head. Call it the Muse, call it Divine Inspiration, call it Crazy Voices…but most writers acknowledge this has always existed within them – the need to tell stories and the need to write. If you stop writing because someone has rejected you, the only person you will disappoint is yourself.
Something happens when you quit: You lower yourself, you diminish yourself to the banality of abject forces – You essentially give up on yourself. You become lesser of a person and you admit defeat.
Maybe it’s the Ram in me (my astrological sign is an Aries), but I don’t want that type of life for myself. I want to reach my maximum potential in this lifetime and beyond.
How do I go on?
It’s simple: I believe in myself and I don’t take things personally.
Yes, your manuscript is like your child – you have poured every ounce of what is good and imaginative and true into your book and no one wants it. It’s like a slap in the face; the utter rejection of everything you’ve worked hard for. It’s like saying your BABY IS UGLY or being dumped by the love of your life. NO ONE WANTS YOU.
But these are things you cannot control. You must remember that editors and publishers have subjective opinions – they are in the business of making money from publishing books and they are not always right.
So I keep working hard – I read books like my life depends on it and I constantly strive to improve my writing. I read about others who have succeeded even in the face of terrible adversity and this encourages me to go on.
If you look closely enough, the success stories are always there. The only difference between these writers and the rest of us is they decided not to quit.
• Eimear McBride’s, A GIRL IS A HALF-FORM THING, was widely rejected for nine years because it was “too difficult, too risky”, until a tiny, independent press picked it up. It has since won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Desmond Elliott prize, nominated for the Folio Prize and many others!
• Lionel Shriver had been a commercial failure for nearly 20 years when she wrote, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Her own literary agent rejected it, 20 additional new agents she approached rejected it, until a small press decided to publish it. This book went on to win the Orange Prize and became an international best-seller.
• Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o, internationally renowned Kenyan writer & candidate for the Nobel Prize, wrote DEVIL ON THE CROSS while being imprisoned without a charge on toilet paper. If you think you have an excuse not to write (you’re too busy/you’re too stressed/you feel dejected/you have writer’s block, etc…), remember that writing while being thrown inside a prison cell scribbling on scraps of paper that people use to wipe themselves with, trumps ANY EXCUSE you will ever have.
HAPPY WRITING! 🙂