Over the past two weeks, I have had a whirlwind of responses to writing projects. Here are some of them:
* a rhyming nonfiction picture book I wrote to send an editor I knew loved the topic was rejected by that editor
* a nonfiction passage was accepted without any revision requests
* another editor loves that rhyming nonfiction picture book and wants to take it to acquisitions
* a literary passage came back for revisions (that took about 30 minutes)
* another literary passage came back for major revisions–basically a complete rewrite–because of sensitivity issues that were clearly obvious in the proposal I had sent and they had approved
* I declined to do that revision–so I will not get paid anything for the work I already put into it
* I learned of a forthcoming nice review for IF YOU WERE THE MOON
* I received 2 personal rejections on other picture book projects
When you’re a writer, life can be an emotional roller coaster. It would be all too easy to let my mood swing wildly depending on the news of the day. But that would be a rotten way to live, in my opinion. I don’t want my happiness to be decided by other people’s actions. So here are a few of the ways I stay fairly even keel.
- Stay busy. As a working writer, I am usuallly juggling lots of assignments, love projects, and speaking engagements. I just do not have time to get into a funk, which is a good thing.
- Have a mantra. “That’s the writer’s life” or something like that. Something that acknowledges it’s a crazy, volatile industry that you accept being part of.
- Celebrate the small victories. When I got the acceptance of the passage with no revisions, I celebrated while walking Jack. I talk to myself a lot, and my self-talk went something like this: This is awesome. No revisions on this means I have more time to work on my kitten picture book manuscript. I’m so excited about that!
- Draw the line where you need to. I thought about it carefully before declining to revise the other passage. I sent a polite, professional email explaining my reasons. I had fallen into this once before with a modern retelling of a fable (which is what this was, too), and they kept asking for rewrite after rewrite. But it was very clear from my proposal what the basic plot was, and the elements they objected to were right there in the proposal. Bottom line: they never should have assigned the piece without clarifying or adjusting the story I had proposed. I heaved a sigh of relief after sending the email, so I knew it was the right thing to do. By remembering that I’m a professional and deserve to be treated like one, I can let the small annoyances go more easily.
- Surround yourself with good people. My writer friends sympathize with the foibles of the publishing industry, and that helps. And seeing their own high and low points reminds me we’re all in this together.
- Choose a thing. A physical thing to remind you of why you do this. An award, a published book, a letter or email (printed out!) from a reader. Having something to look at and touch can revive your energy when you’re feeling a bit beaten down.
- Take the long view. Any artist’s life will be full of highs and lows. Terrible reviews. Awards. Contract cancellations you did nothing to deserve. Wonderful publicity opportunites you did nothing to earn. I try to picture them all as just scenic stops along the way. Some views are better than others! But if my overall journey is to be a writer, and to be the best writer I can be, I know I need to travel this road–potholes and all.
Those are some of the things that work for me, anyway. I mean, I may be sad about a rejection (for a little bit) or irritated about a broken assignment, but I let it go pretty quickly. Your mileage using my advice may vary, but I hope you have found things that work for you. In fact, feel free to share your own favorite tactics in the comments! Meanwhile, happy writing!