I was going to write a It's Friday; It's a Good Thing post, because it's been a while since I've done that and I have so many things I am grateful for this week; but life is taking me a different way today.
Last night I received the email no author wants to receive: the one from a fellow writer who's just received a rejection.
It's made me think a lot about this industry, and how public, even in our privacy, we fail. I haven't read of a single author (that wasn't already famous) that didn't get rejected at least a few times before they were first published. I'm sure there are some out there, but it isn't the norm. Even after publication, the information is floating around out there: before they succeeded they failed. In other words: someone didn't think their writing was good enough.
It's almost impossible to write without people knowing. It's not as though I introduce myself to people and say, "Hi, I'm Heidi. I'm an aspiring author." But my family knows. My friends know. Moms who ask why I disappear into the library ever day during preschool with my laptop know. And the inevitable question comes: When is your book coming out?
In the writing community it is even more personal. Have you sent queries out yet? Who did you send them to? Have you heard anything yet?
And, at some point, most of us are going to have to utter the depressing words: it was rejected.
It feels like humiliation. Even when my proud son declares to people that I am writing a book, and even when he knows I am rejected, he says, "Well, they probably got, like, 5000 queries this week and were in a bad mood. There are lots of others." I want to cringe, even though I realize, he's right. At least partly. There are lots of other agents. And better, there are lots of other stories in me waiting to be written, and maybe one of those will be the one to break onto the scene and pave the way for my first, less flashy but more substantial book.
When we post on a blog that we are writing, we inevitably have to write that we are querying. And then we have to post the outcome. Which isn't always pretty.
But why be ashamed? Why feel humiliated? When I started writing, and telling my kids what I was doing, I wanted to be an example to them. Follow your dreams, no matter how big, no matter how out of reach they seem. Do what you love. Don't be afraid that your dream is bigger than you.
So they know my dream, and they are watching. And now I have to do it gracefully. When they stumble trying to attempt something big, I am never ashamed. I am proud at the attempt, and I encourage them to keep at it until they succeed. If I act humiliated by my own failures, by the rejections that inevitably come, what am I teaching them?
For all the writers out there who dare to dream that their book might actually find a place on a bookstore shelf, who put themselves out on a line and tell the world, I am writing! I am submitting! You have guts. You should be darn proud of what you've done. You've done what most people say they want to do, but never get around to doing.
The rejections... well, they most likely will come. But feeling humiliated about admitting that? Well, that's something you can control.