From Rejection to Redemption: How to Avoid the Writing Blues

Rejection can be an open door. . .

Anyone who has ever queried knows that rejection is part of the bargain.  Aspiring writers have the phenomenal (really, when you think of it, it is pretty awesome) opportunity to cold-submit their manuscripts to agents with the knowledge that their e-mail will be read (or skimmed, depending on query quality and fit) and that they will receive a response at some point, however formulaic it might be.  The cordiality and professionalism agents use to approach and delve through their slush pile is admirable.  All of these considerations, though, may not assuage the instinctive hurt that a form rejection sitting in your inbox will evoke.  I put so much into my manuscript, and they said it isn’t good enough?  Initiate identity crisis / professional crisis / imposter syndrome / all of the above.     

The bare fact is that rejection is inevitably going to be a consistent and repetitive experience for any writer seeking an agent, despite a manuscript of the highest quality, editing, and originality.  Agents consider not just quality, but also genre fit, marketability, and their existing client list (among many, many other aspects of the publishing world that I am sure I have little knowledge of).  So, how do you stay motivated and confident when only rejections seem to be streaming into your inbox?

1) Don’t dismiss the power of positive thinking. . .Check out Literary Rejections (@LitRejections).  A little dose of encouragement for your twitter feed. 

2) Get feedback to make your manuscript even better (or to assure yourself that it is as finely polished as a High Tea Set).  Have you seen the detailed workshop offered by From Pitch to Published?  Amazing opportunity, if you have a little saved to put towards your writer’s life.  Sign-up by July 15th for the next online workshop, which starts on Sept. 1.

3) Read interviews with published authors, who can tell you just how many times they were rejected before they were published.  Writer’s Digest has a great archive of author interviews (I know, I really do love their site).

4) When in doubt, just remember: J.K. Rowling and Judy Blume were once in your seat, too, and they didn’t give up.

Have faith, do good work, and keep in touch. . .

Writing Conferences: Promote & Support at the Same Time

Conferencing doesn’t have to be all about competition. . .

Conferencing, in any profession, can be a daunting task.  Even though you know that you will be surrounded by throngs of like-minded individuals with similar goals and interests, there is also often an undertow of competition.  Yes, we are all writers/artists/scientists.  Yes, we are all striving for publication/sponsors/grants.  And yes, if there is only one slot open, I hope I get it instead of you. The posturing can be draining to any attendee, where we feel like we need to be constantly “on.” From the moment we eat the stale breakfast pastries offered to participants to the moment we agree to another post-modern debate over a nightcap (even though we’d rather just have some peace and quiet in our hotel room), it’s easy to feel like a contestant rather than a paying attendee.

Thankfully, as my mother constantly reminded me during my childhood, there remains the option for “everything in moderation.”  We can attend a conference, promote our own professional goals, and still remain supportive to the writing community at large.  In other words, to quote one of my favorite scientists, Patty Hawley (who, by the way, I met at a professional conference and who embodied this sentiment herself), we can both “get along and get ahead.”  In fact, according to Hawley’s work examining social development, those of us who balance these characteristics often achieve the most.

As an American woman, in particular, I find this sentiment especially relevant. Culturally, there is still an emphasis on femininity being equated with selflessness, which can leave women at a disadvantage (or at least feeling uncomfortable) in competitive arenas like a writing conference.  But, if we approach the situation with the goal to remain both agentic and supportive, we can promote not only our own goals but also a greater respect for the “feminine” traits of cooperation and connection.

If you’re looking for a few other ideas, check out the Huffington Post’s survival guide to the Association for Writer’s & Writing Program’s Conference (AWP).

Looking for a conference coming up very soon?  Check out The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference.

What do you think?  Do writer’s conferences excite you, exhaust you, or achieve both in equal measures?