I’m going through, let’s call it, a phase with my writing. I call it my fear phase. It’s not writer’s block. Writer’s block I could handle. Last week I read the perfect explanation for my funkitude on Nova Ren Suma’s blog. As quoted from her guest blogger, debuting YA novelist Meagan Spooner: But sometimes the fear is all too possible—what if I send this out and it gets rejected, and the experience is so terrible that it kills my love of writing? What if by trying to reach for this dream, I destroy it?
I’ve been getting rejected for years, right? Right. Handling rejection is a job requirement for writers. Somehow, though, the agent rejections of the past year have been breathtaking, spectacular, crushing. Perhaps my ego isn’t as strong as it used to be — I don’t know — but it feels like something has withered. Picture a dessicated corpse, a tender fledgling that crash-landed during its maiden voyage from the nest. That’s why the quote above caught my attention: I’ve been grasping so hard that I fear I’ve destroyed my writing dream.
Last weekend I was pondering this fear crap as I drove to author Ann Littlewood’s book launch. She’s touring with the third novel in her zoo-dunnit mystery series. It’s called ENDANGERED. If you’re an animal lover and you care about conservancy, check out her books. Even if animals aren’t your thing, check out her books because you’ll dig her zoo-keeper protagonist, Iris. She’s just the right amount of feisty without being annoying.
I had a chance to ask Ann about fear, and here’s what she had to say:
Winston Churchill defined success as “the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” That’s hard to pull off. Failure is debilitating, sucking out energy and leaving nothing much behind. But it can be thwarted if you see the possibility of non-success. Here’s some strategies I’ve used, with varying results.
1. Acknowledge that only a certain percentage of new ventures will succeed, whether they are possible friendships, sales calls, new plants in the garden, or whatever. And that’s OK. To paraphrase what a friend once said, “Of course I fail more than other people. I do more than other people.” This leads to ….
2. Have more than one growth point to your life. If one wilts, focus on another for awhile. Then maybe come back to the first with renewed energy. And…
3. Have the next step in mind. If this round of agents all reject the manuscript, my next step will be to…write a different book, try short stories, submit directly to publishers, self-publish, and so on. Always know what you will do next if the current strategy does not pan out.
4. Look for benefits that you weren’t expecting, that aren’t your primary goal, and savor them. Met new people? Learned something interesting? Had to try something scary and felt good about that?
This stuff isn’t easy. It takes all your self-knowledge and self-discipline to decide whether and how to stay in the game. The alternative of inaction and depression is, however, not the least appealing.
As for publishing, my take on it is that success requires a good manuscript, a ton of persistence, and a surprising amount of luck–a big random factor. The longer you stand out in the field, the better the chance that lightening will strike you. (And I really need to come up with a less lethal metaphor!)
I’ll take some of that lightening, please. Thanks, Ann!