For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
The fog of doubt is an unpleasantly cold thing, full of slithery, scaly creatures. But I’m in the midst of it.
I don’t want to be here.
The other day, I received a rejection for a novel I wrote before the one I’m currently working on, a rejection without feedback other than, “I was looking for something you didn’t give me.” I’m paraphrasing, so please don’t get the impression that the rejection was terse. It was actually phrased quite pleasantly. Yet there were no invitations to resubmit if changes were made or “let me see something else you’ve written.” Just a no.
So today, the conga line of doubt began to beat in my head. Instead of the usual duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH beat, this one went, It’s a shame you really su-UCK.
When life hits like this, I do what I usually do—get in the car and drive. Probably not the smartest thing I can do, since I’m an impatient driver with a tendency toward road rage. Little old ladies driving Chevrolets fear me as I loom behind them like an angry pachyderm.
The gray sky spit rain at me—a fitting match to my mood. And I hit yellow lights all the way.
A rejection is like that too—a yellow light cautioning, “Stop.” I don’t like to stop. I like to keep rolling. But this time I needed to stop and take inventory; to face the crossroads brought on by rejection and decide where to go next.
First, I decided to have lunch at Red Lobster. The child within me then demanded ice cream from Culver’s to take home and eat later. Okay, I’m lying. First, I cried and felt worthless. Then, I went to lunch and later for ice cream. At that point, I came to the conclusion that writing is pretty much a step of faith. Maybe you’re shouting, “Duh!” right about now, having already come to that conclusion ages ago. I’m a little dense sometimes. But persisting in writing without receiving positive feedback feels a bit like stepping off a cliff sometimes. Do I believe in my story? Do I believe in myself as a writer enough to keep going? That’s where faith comes in.
I didn’t have this exact meal, but I had this custard. It didn’t have feet or hands, however.
As I thought about it and prayed about it, I was reminded of my car. If I put myself in park, i.e., stopped writing my current novel, that would be like putting my car in park at Culver’s. As a result, I wouldn’t get home with my ice cream. Instead, I would be wallowing on the sharp rocks of doubt. (Yes, I often mix metaphors.)
So I chose to climb off those rocks and take my ice cream (and my car) home. The only thing I wrote today was this, however. There’s always tomorrow.
Maybe if you’re at a crossroads yourself, wondering if you should give up or keep going, you’ll decide to keep going too.
P. S. Though this has nothing to do with what I just wrote, I can’t help mentioning it. During my drive, I stopped at Target and caught a glimpse of this:
This is the Old Spice Wolfthorn Wild Collection Holiday Gift Pack. Um, I’m not sure what the snarling one-eyed wolf is supposed to convey. Coolness? Masculinity? Either way, it made me laugh out loud on a day when laughter was the furthest thing from my mind.
Crossroad image from ourcoffeestops.com. Food from redlobster.com and savinglifestyle.com. Yellow light from theexpiredmeter.com. Old Spice from somewhere on the Internet.
Rejection sucks, there’s no getting around that. I’ve had a few of those days lately myself. It’s rough. But the good thing about writing and most creative acts is that a fresh start is always possible, whether it’s the same work with a different audience or something entirely new. There will be better days ahead.
Thank you, Isaac!
BTW: Are you going to explore Beowulf on your blog?
Thanks for writing this. I read this morning that the only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing, and I really think that is true. Keep the faith!
Thank you, Alison!!! I will give it a shot.
I agree you’ve just got to keep going. My debut novel I published in September is selling really slowly and that can be disheartening. But I don’t give up. I can’t, I’ve come too far now. Even though I sometimes feel like it.
Glad you’re not giving up, Elaine. You’ve got to get this next book published. 🙂
To be clear, I “like” your post, I love how you wrote it… I don’t like what you’re going through. But this post is beautiful in its honesty and its phrasing (and yes, in its mixed metaphors). Rejection is a horrible thing to deal with, especially when it’s over something important to you. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I haven’t read your novel, but I will tell you that you are a GOOD writer. Your work will find its home. A rejection isn’t a reflection on your work, though it feels like it. A “no” is really a “not for us.” It’s still a terrible thing, and you deserved that lunch and ice cream. But please, never put it in park. You have so much to give, and I’m waiting patiently to read your work some day. 🙂
I drive when I’m stressed, too. I have no idea why its so relaxing, but it is.
As for that one-eyed wolf… this is the manliest thing in the world, I guess? I’m so sick of “alpha male” culture, but that picture did give me a giggle!
Thank you, Kate. I’ll try to remember the “not for us” advice and not believe that my work sucks (though it could use a revise).
Isn’t that wolf hilarious??? I’ve never seen anything like it on a product. I tried to think of who I could give that to, but no one came to mind. I used to buy Old Spice for my dad when I was a kid. 🙂
I’m sorry to hear about your rejection, Linda. I wrote a post for tomorrow on this very subject…must be in the air.
Believe me, I feel your pain. You’re a winner in my book for completing your novel, many never reach that point. I also think you’re brave. Often writers are afraid to submit for fear of rejection, you faced it head on! Keep doing what you do best…write! 🙂
Ooo. I’ll be sure to read that post. And thank you, Jill for your kind thoughts. I’m trying to get back in the saddle today and write.
Rejection undoubtedly sucks – I’ve had my fair share too – however it’s part and parcel of being a writer. After you’ve wiped away the tears you’ll realise that it’s made you stronger and maybe an even better writer than you already are because you’ll put even more of yourself into your writing. I agree being a writer is a leap of faith, and it also takes guts and a whole heap of perseverance. Onwards and upwards I say. 🙂
Thanks, Kate. I’ve been down the rejection road a boatload of times. (I guess that counts as a mixed metaphor. My day doesn’t feel complete without at least one.) Each one still hurts. But I hope I’ve grown as a writer. There are some days, however, where I feel that I’ve regressed.
Glad you kept going! Hope u had the Biscuits at Red Lobster!
I totally did. I’m glad they come with the meal. 🙂 It’s why I go.
Now you are making me really impatient to read your story. I had a rejection too, but I shared parts of my story with other authors who gave me valuable input and encouragement. I have a better story now. All the best with your writing!
Thank you, Tina. I hope your writing is going well.
I like the wolf, I think.
You don’t find it creepy, Professor?
Well, that’s how I’d like to imagine myself. Don’t you think the professor looks like that?
Had a fresh rejection for one of my short stories a couple weeks ago. Same as you, just a form -“Thanks for submitting, it’s not what we’re looking for.” It stung, as they all do. It’s okay to cry and eat ice cream. In fact, it’s not just okay, it should be a requirement. Gotta get the hurt out so we can make room for the excitement again. Stewing over the matter is counterproductive and harmful, so I’m glad to hear you’ve found your faith again. 🙂
It’s also helpful to remember that even though an editor rejected your story, that doesn’t mean it was a bad story. It just as likely wasn’t for that editor. So keep on sending it out!
I’m sorry about that, Phillip. 😦 Will you continue sending your story out? I’ll probably revise my novel after I finish revising my current novel. Trying to keep moving.
Why have they NOT come out with a DO NO LIKE button!!! So very sorry, Linda. That must have felt so heavy and painful. It hurts ME to know that you are suffering and feeling this way. Please keep the car moving and never stop praying! xo
I’ll try, Maria. Ice cream truly helps. And yesterday I babysat an adorable child, which took my mind off things. Today, I’m ready to get back in the saddle. But first I need to check Culver’s menu to see what the flavor of the day is. 😀
So sorry to hear about what you are going through. But so glad you are not in park–and that, even in the midst of this, you could write such a wonderful post. Keep the faith!!
Thanks, Stephanie. Hope you’re doing well.
I’ve had my struggles for the last couple of months, but overall all is well. I’m keeping the faith too. I started reading The Falcon in the Glass and am really enjoying it–though I haven’t gotten very far into it. Thanks again for that.
So glad you’re enjoying it, Stephanie. I’ll be sure to tell Susan. 🙂
Glad you’re keeping the faith.
Oh, Linda! I’m so sorry you’re in the midst of that dreary self-doubt fog. I know it well. Thanks for sharing these reflections. It says a lot for your writing skills that you’re able to write a post that uses such wonderful, engaging humor and still does justice to tough feelings!
Thanks, Laurie!!! How are you doing? Are you still at work on your epistolary novel? I get giddy just thinking about it. 🙂
Thanks, Linda! And yes–I’m taking a little break before I look back at what I’ve drafted and figure out where it’s going next, but it’s still coming along 🙂
So glad!!!! I can’t wait for any book I can get with your name on it.
Thank you for this post, Linda! It was so beautifully written and honest. I hope some of those editors and agents are reading to know what an awesome writer you are. And it was well-timed for me, because I entered a contest with my LEGO scenes last week, and today I found out that I wasn’t chosen for the semi-finals. “But my photos aren’t dark or blurry!” I told myself. So I don’t know what they were looking for or why I wasn’t picked.
I’m sorry about that, Lyn. It’s hard, isn’t it? Did you post that scene on your blog? I’d love to see it. I’ll check your blog and see. And thank you for your kind words.
When I write-which at the moment only includes poetry and a handful of short stories, I only have my family and friends in mind to read them. They tend not to be so critical! I suppose the next step up is also a leap of faith.
Everything about writing is, Andy. Every time we face a blank page.
Have you received feedback from your family and friends?
Well the few stories I have are a few years old, it has been mostly poetry I have been writing. They have been well received, and I was included in this year’s Best of Manchester Poets. I am inching slowly, I think, towards fiction, with a few gentle nudges from you along the way.
You were??? And you didn’t post about that??? Unless I missed a post. You should totally write a post about that!!! Congratulations!
Oh no I wouldn’t post about that. See-I suck at this stuff! Self-promotion is not my thing at all.
Well, far be it for me to make you do something you’re uncomfortable doing. But I think it’s cool. 🙂 And other readers will too.
To be fair to the ‘gatekeepers’ they are in an industry where only a handful of ‘jobs’ (taking on new writers) ever come up. And for each job’ there are what, a hundred thousand applicants? (writers). Some more qualified than others. So, let’s say you’re in the top ten percent of skilled applicants they receive CV’s from. (Novel, script etc) That still gives you a one 10,000/1 chance. Mmm.Not trying to depress you here, but just saying, THERE’S PROBABLY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR WRITING!
I’ve been published, commissioned to write film and TV scripts and still, I sent my manuscript for Thugs Like Us to about three or four Agents and then gave up ad self-published. I have at least one email or message every week, so far, from someone who has read my novel and not only like it, they love it. It’s been compared by them to novels written by very famous published authors.(Irvine Welsh. Bukowski,even Hemmingway! And no, it wasn’t my mum.)
So, what does that say about the publishing world?
Write because you have to.
Think of sending out your stuff as going to work in the bleakest underground mine. Do it. Come up for air and remember what the sun on your skin feels like.
Thanks, John. You’re right. Writing is a difficult profession in which so many people are trying to get a foot in the door. Persistence is key. I’m putting on my big girl pants and trying again.
Good. That’s what’ll make you a hero. Big girl pants. I’m going to try them myself. 🙂
Oh John. Never change. 😀
I know I’m parroting what others have already said, but I am both sorry for this rejection and also thankful for your honesty here.
Also, I would just like to quote what a wise woman recently told me: “You’re a writer because you’re a born storyteller. So yeah, you’d better keep writing. Don’t make me nag you.” Always keep going, friend. We want and need your stories.
You make me smile as usual. 🙂
Conga line of doubt—snort!!! I think I need a graphic to hang over my computer screen when I need a laugh.
I got a rejection this week that inspired me to write a poem on disappointment. The demons in my head are screaming at me, demanding to know what I’m doing with my life, and when they scream at me I get extremely irritable. Sigh. I guess I’ll follow your example and keep on driving.
Sigh. I’m sorry, Naomi. It stings, doesn’t it? Keep going anyway, even if the terrible voices tell you, “Why bother?” Ignore them and keep writing what you love.
You know I know better than others what a difficult journey this has been and yet, you are a constant inspiration of perseverance and you even keep cheering people up and doing awesome things for them even when your heart is breaking. You are an amazing writer and I firmly believe your train is coming!!
Thanks, Colleen!! I’d like that train to come for both of us. I used to have train dreams, where I waited on a platform for a train to arrive. Maybe that’s a good sign.