How to Deal With Rejections

It occurs to me, following the success of my ‘Top Tips for Blogging’ post a while back:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/my-seven-tips-for-better-blogging/

that I should do a ‘top tips on surviving rejections’ post.  After all, I’ve had my fair share of them and although unlike writers in the past I can’t paper my room with rejection slips because they come by email, I can as it were paper this blog with advice about how to deal with them.

So here are my top tips on surviving rejection.

  1.  It happens to everyone.  If you’re feeling down, look at this sample of rejections received by successful and established writers and remember that rejection is not necessarily a judgement on your writing, merely on its suitability for the outlet to which you submitted it – or, if you want to be pedantic, on that person’s opinion of its suitability (look at this link to 17 famous authors and their rejections: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections)                                                                                                                                     
  2. It hurts.  There’s no way round this that I know of: you’re going to feel bad for a day or two, maybe longer; so use your support networks.  Tell family and friends, share with online writing groups.  If you haven’t joined any there are loads out there and my favourite is the Insecure Writers’ Support Group (ISWG) on Facebook, who are very supportive and encouraging.                                                         
  3. Do something to make yourself feel better.  Write (but don’t send!) an angry or humorous email to the editor who rejected you, as I did in yesterday’s post.  If you really want to, send the rejected item somewhere else – but I recommend letting it lie for a while and in the meantime doing something restful and enjoyable.  Go for a walk, watch a film, read something amusing or absorbing that is quite different from your own work (so you don’t compare) and realise that you will feel shitty for a while.                                                                                                 
  4. Don’t allow the negative thoughts and/or feedback to define you.  I had a comment a while back on my poetry which really rocked me on my heels.  I thought about it for a while – then I decided that they were wrong.  But even if they were right it doesn’t mean that I have no talent or that I should give up.  After all a rejection is just one person’s opinion.                                                                                                 
  5. When you’re feeling better, pick up your pen/tablet/laptop again and keep going.  There’s only one sure way to fail and that is to give up.  So don’t give up!

I’d like to hear your top tips too – please add them in the comments

Kirk out

Another Day, Another Dolour

Oh a writer’s lot is not a happy one.  You give it your best shot, you grab your lightbulb moments and painstakingly put them together into a work; you hone and refine, you draft and redraft and finally you send your stories out into the world to seek their fortune and what happens?  Pretty smartly you get an email where the words ‘thanks’ and ‘unfortunately’ stand in unreasonably close proximity to each other and at the end of it all you’re no nearer knowing what went wrong because most editors can’t or won’t give feedback and as to what they are actually looking for, the best response you get is ‘study the magazine.’  Well, dear editor, I would if I could: in fact I’m frequently tempted to draft a form letter so that I can reply thus:

Dear Magazine Editor,

Thank you for your rejection of my story/poem/flash fiction.  I understand that in spite of having no guidelines whatsoever (bar length and formatting of manuscript), my submission does not meet your mysterious and cryptic requirements.  With regard to this, thank you for your suggestion that I study the magazine.  Unfortunately due to limited space in my bank account I am only able to study a tiny fraction of the magazines suggested to me and I’m afraid that on this occasion yours did not meet my criteria for inclusion.  I wish you all the best in finding readers.

Yours etc

It really is a dispiriting and painful experience; one which leaves you with pain instead of cash (dolour instead of dollars).  Plus, I can never decide whether it’s better to get rejections quickly or slowly: on the one hand I didn’t have to wait too long for this but on the other hand a rejection at lightning speed feels somehow a lot worse than one which takes weeks or months; at least in the latter case you can convince yourself that they really thought about it.  You can imagine, if you will, ditherings; editorial disputes, wranglings over your manuscript taking place at the highest level.  But to receive a ‘no thanks’ by return of post does not allow any such illusions to flourish.  Plus if a rejection takes two or three months you can easily be on to other projects by then and not care so much as you do about something hot off the press.

Then again, if it’s a quick rejection you can whip it off somewhere else pronto rather than waiting.  So perhaps I should do that.

Kirk out

The Slush of Despond

Nobody in their right mind would ever want to be a writer.  Michael Caine once commented that when people told him they wanted to be an actor, what they wanted was the perceived glamour; the interviews, the attention, the fame, the cars and the money.  And the girls (or boys).  What they didn’t want was the actual job; the waiting, the wrangling, the endless rehearsing, the waiting, the bad cups of tea, the horrible hotels, the alienation.  So he said, ‘if you wanted to be an actor, you’d be one.  You’d be doing rep or pub theatre or working for a small am-dram company; anything you could, because it’d be in your blood.’  And he’s absolutely right.  I say the same thing (perhaps more tactfully) to would-be writers: if you want to be a writer, write – but if you just want to be famous and do interviews and book-signings and get prizes, there’s no way past the slog.  And oh, god, the endless rejections.

What nobody tells you – because nobody can tell you the length of a piece of string – is how long this period lasts.  In my experience, there is first of all a phase where you are finding your voice.  You may get published during this period if what you do coincides with what’s popular; and that can be good.  It can also be bad news, because you may get stuck there and never evolve.  Then there is a phase where you have found your voice and need to find your public.  That’s where I am right now.  I’ve found a sort of limited public, in that I’ve published a few things: I’ve also found a sort of private public in you guys who are kind enough to read and comment on what I put on here.  But I have yet to find my wider public.

Every time I go onto Everyday Fiction – a magazine which has published a couple of my short stories – I see that my latest offering is still waiting to be read.  This means that it is categorised as ‘slush’.  I do not like seeing my carefully-crafted work described as ‘slush’.  But what can you do?  Insist they recategorise it as ‘genius in waiting’?

I don’t know.  There seems no way round this problem.  You just have to keep going.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress through the Slush of Despond.

Kirk out

Never Stand-up When You Can Sit-com

Where comedy’s concerned I prefer sitting to standing as I like sit-com but find stand-up quite scary.  I’m terrified of people not laughing.  Stand-up is quite confrontational; it’s a series of jokes, whereas sitcom is far more complex.  The comedy comes from dialogue, situation and character; every sitcom creates a world of its own and that’s something that really interests me.  Take the latest series on BBC about a pair of blokes searching for bits of metal in a field.  ‘Detectorists’ (we learn in episode one that a metal detector is a piece of equipment and the person operating it is a detectorist) is an unusual sitcom in that it takes place mostly outdoors as the pair search for the Holy Grail that is the Saxon ship thought to have been buried nearby.  It’s a very well-observed comedy and the characters are utterly believable and well-acted by Mackenzie Crook (Gareth in ‘The Office) and Toby Jones (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and, bizarrely, the voice of Dobby the house elf).

I could see myself writing sitcom (and in fact I did once write a radio sitcom) but I could never in a million years do stand-up.  As a poet the worst thing that can happen to you is that people don’t listen or don’t clap – but as a comedian if you’re up there giving it your all and people don’t laugh, it’s just the worst thing ever.  It makes me shudder.

I need some comedy at the moment as I’ve just had an email saying my memoir has not even made the longlist.  I’m really upset because I thought this was going to be my big break.

Kirk out

PS I’ve just found out that Toby Jones is the son of Freddie Jones, the character actor.  I once knew someone at Uni who was friends with him…

50’s: Hades of Gray

Now as you all know I like a good pun, so here’s today’s offering: 50’s, Hades of Gray.  And yes, before you ask, I have ‘read’ 50 Shades of Grey (if you can call it reading) and pronounced it pernicious tosh.  I don’t want to come over all Lady Chatterley on you, but would you let your husband read this?  I wouldn’t.  Yes, it had millions of readers, but I imagine most people picked it up, as I did, out of curiosity: I read a couple of chapters, skimmed a few more and then threw it away in disgust before remembering that it was a library book and taking it back in a plain brown wrapper.

Or a plain grey one…

Here’s a review I posted earlier, just in case you missed it at the time:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/fifty-shades-of-holy-crap/

But!  Today’s post will focus on the utter nightmare – or Hades -* that my fifth decade has turned out to be.  At 51, I made the mistake of deciding to dedicate my life to writing, and hence headed down the avenue of humiliation and rejection that is a writer’s life.  I burnt my boats because I knew if my boats were there I’d set sail in them, and I never looked back.  And it has been utter crap.

Oh, all right, yes – I did have a bad day yesterday.  My fifth decade – or the six years of it that have so far elapsed – haven’t been that bad.  Yesterday two rejections thunked into my in-box, one of them landing literally hours after I’d sent the bloody thing off.  At least do me the honour of waiting a few days, dammit!  It’s like the scene in ‘The King’s Speech’ where Logue goes for an audition and gets about two lines out before the director shuts him up.

Argh!

So this has coloured everything grey: from the haircut I had yesterday which now seems horrible (no, I haven’t gone grey – not quite yet) to the simple bike job which I botched and which left me cursing my bike and the whole of cycle-dom.  Plus, I felt unaccountably exhausted, though Mark reckons my blood pressure is much too low.  110/63 I think – or something like that.

I would say ‘roll on my 60th birthday’ except that when my 60th birthday comes I’ll be bloody-well sixty!  And Sue Townsend died at 68!  Which reminds me, today we are going to her funeral.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Kirk out

* see what I did there?