The Waiting Game

Here are two facts about me: 1) I hate rejection. 2) I am not a patient person.

Rejection

Does anyone like it? Of course not!

Most of us have developed a lovely set of defense and coping mechanisms specifically for dealing with it. Or rather, avoiding it. Some people, including myself, have become so skilled in this area that we begin to circumvent situations where there’s even a possibility of rejection. Pre-emptive rejection rejection! Perfect! This pre-emptive rejection rejection, which I fondly refer to as PRR, is great reason for to choose a career other than telemarketing. But advanced skills in PRR, as I have found, are sucky for becoming a published writer.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure how I expected to get published if I wasn’t putting my work out there. Writers don’t just “get discovered.” (But wouldn’t it be nice if we did? Like the stories of old where models and starlets were plucked from obscurity while sipping a malted at the drug-store counter, or while shopping for the perfect tankini at Abercrombie & Fitch?) Perhaps I had a pipe dream somewhere in my mind that this little unpublicized blog would somehow come to the attention of an editor, who would then see brilliant potential in my ramblings on fiber, and offer me a book deal. Yes! Sweet!

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. What a rude awakening!

So I started making a few formal queries by submitting a very few article and story ideas. But so far? No takers.

To be fair, this is all quite recent. Most of what I’ve sent out into the world is still waiting for a reply. But now that I’m in the middle of it, I wonder if that isn’t worse than a straight-out rejection: the dread grows in step with the length of the silence. Enter the Need for Patience.

Patience

It may be a virtue but it’s not one of mine. When the going gets tough, I find something else to do. I Perhaps you’ve seen evidence of this in some of these blog posts…  15-month Angelberry? Two-year tweed? Each Day’s Beauty?

But patience is something I must develop on the path to getting published. And more than just patience, the ability to shrug off doubt and to keep moving forward, working and trying. And out-PRRing PRR.

After all, what great writer hasn’t curated a lovely collection of notes saying “No Thank You” or “Not for Us”?

Recently relevant examples include Louisa May Alcott and Stephen King. LMA’s struggle with what to write and how to get published is an integral theme of Little Women. King tells funny yet poignant stories in On Writing about his own stack of rejection slips, which he kept skewered on a spike (how appropriate) above his bed so he would be inspired to persevere. And of course there is the ubiquitous recent example of J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 major publishing houses before she found one willing to give Harry a shot.

As I was looking up the statistic for Harry Potter (since I thought it had been rejected “only” 8 times, that in itself was a little glimmer of encouragement), I found this article: 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected. The list is stunning: Kenneth Grahame, Dr. Seuss, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale, Jasper Fforde… these are incredible writers.

I guess I should be embarrassed at my own audacity: Who am I to feel inadequate when I experience the same challenges as these Lions of the Pen, when I don’t have half their talent? But I do feel inadequate as I wait, and that’s a fact. I guess that should be Fact #3 in the list above.

But here’s the thing: As I’m going through this process, through these experiences, I’m learning about what’s truly important. I’m learning to care less about the rejections (and the anticipation of them), and to care more about honing my skills and trying by submitting my work. I’ve let fear of rejection stifle my forward progress for too long. Now it’s time to practice patience while believing in myself and my talents, and to surge forward with relentless enthusiasm toward getting published.

This is one Waiting Game where I plan to emerge the winner.