Thursday, February 27, 2020

Getting Over Crushing Disappointment: A how-to guide

Good morning, fine folks. It's KGG, coming atcha from a very dry Poconos. This is the first year in a loooooong time where there is no snow on the ground. Not one flake. Nada. In fact, a few days ago, it was sixty degrees! My kids went out to play. In February. Wearing sweatshirts. I feel bad being so happy about it because of climate change, but man, do I hate snow. Anyway, small pleasures.

So recently, and I mean very recently (like days ago), I received disappointing news. My manuscript had been rejected at the acquisitions stage for a big publisher. I received a lovely email from the editor with praise and an invitation to submit future work, but the news still stung. I wouldn't be a human being if I wasn't massively bummed. No matter how much someone tries to temper expectations, they still can't help but imagine how their Publishers Marketplace announcement will read. Again, I'm human.

Now it's typically not proper etiquette to announce submission rejections, and I certainly don't suggest you do that (especially via Twitter) but I am not on submission. I am not even agented. I was able to submit to the editor directly via referral. It was a special situation, and I am grateful for both my friend and the editor who was willing to take the time to consider my work.

But there is a takeaway here, not just for me, but for you. You see, publishing is a difficult industry. It can make fortunes and break hearts. It can be both elevating and soul crushing. Business and art really are strange bedfellows. It amazes me how any of us end up here at all.

So in light of my blech news, I thought I would share my guide on how to best get over disappointment. Because it isn't the end of the world. It just feels that way.

1. Feel free to wallow

There is no rule that says you can't simmer in self-pity. Can't marinate in melancholy. Can't dabble in doubt. You totally can. I give you permission. Just don't let it take over your life. Mourn your loss for a little while, and then work toward the light.

Speaking of work...

2. Dive back into that project, or start a new one

Work is good for the soul. I took a few months off from writing because of reasons and if I had just kept working, I'd be done by now. It's really hard to dwell on the past when you're moving forward. No better way to get over a breakup then dating someone new. So date that new manuscript. Let it take you out to dinner; tell you you're pretty. Just move on.

3. Remember that all roads are bumpy

Getting turned down by an editor or agent is not failure. It's simply one step in a long journey. Getting to acquisitions is the furthest I have ever gone in a traditional publishing career. And it's a huge accomplishment that signifies I am making great strides. Someone saw potential in my work. Someone else will too one day.

4. Get communal

Oftentimes disappointment is a difficult hurdle to get over because we feel so alone. How can so-and-so understand my struggles when they're published and I'm not? Except we know that is not true. All writers have been told NO countless times. Before you stew in your solitude, jump online and connect with other writers who are going through similar struggles. Batting about your pain with colleagues will eventually lessen it.

5. Take control

One of the most frustrating aspects of the traditional publishing business isn't just the waiting game, but the lack of control. You can write a great story, but you can't make agents and editors read it or consider it faster. Once it's in someone else's inbox, all you can do is wait. [Why is it so slow? And what is everyone doing?] I've self-published quite a few novels and I love the immediacy of getting my work out in the world. If you're committed to traditional publishing, might I suggest self-publishing a short story or two? Or write some fan-fiction and throw it up on AO3. It's rewarding to see your work resonate with readers, especially when you've been rejected.

6. Buy yourself something nice

We often treat ourselves in celebration, but why not buy ourselves something as a pick-me-up? Not gonna lie, I had plans to book myself a facial if I had gotten this deal, but failed to make the appointment when I got the news. But all that does is teach me that I'm only allowed special treats when I have success. Only I did the hard work regardless. So book a massage. Buy those fancy pens. Order that handmade journal off Etsy. Sure hard work is its own reward. But so is a spa day.

7. Embrace the bad

A friend of mine often tells me that there are no absolutes in publishing. One year, an author is a New York Times bestseller; the next, they are being dropped by their publisher. This business is unpredictable, so don't try to predict it. And don't think once you've gotten some success, it will keep. It may not. Be prepared for disappointment and you'll never be disappointed. Huh.

8. Change the system

And lastly, if something is repeatedly not working, then work around it. Make a big change. Be it your agent, genre, writing environment, process--whatever. Remember, we are not helpless. Fix the problem. Don't dwell on it.

I hope this helps someone as much as it helped me writing it. Feel your feelings, but then move on. You've got work to do.


Karissa Laurel said...

What a great and also a little heartbreaking post, K. Thanks for sharing so we can commiserate with you and know we are not alone in suffering publishing disappointments. Hugs to you and yay for you for getting back on your horse.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Thanks, girl! I am doing surprisingly better and I think writing this helped a lot.

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