to not know how to deal with rejection

(20 Posts)
travellinghopefully12 Mon 04-Apr-16 14:45:48

Just that really

I work as a freelance writer, which is a massively competitive field and have had amazingly good luck with journalism, but recently all my work has been creating web copy to sell products (OK pay but not what I want to do in the longterm - not that I am ungrateful for the work - I need it and my current clients are lovely and respectful.)

I've been coasting along lately, doing the web copy, pitching longform ideas to editors (I love longform) and just not had that many yeses - although did just get one on Friday.

I spent the whole of my spare time in winter working on a project which I entered into a competition, and I found out the other day I didn't get longlisted. I know writing is a grossly competitive field and I didn't expect to win - but I put everything into it and it feels so tough not getting longlisted, spoilt as that sounds.

I'm also taking the writing gigs I do get for granted - or if they are good ones, assuming they will fall through (I've been asked to interview an actor I very much admire, but am terrified they will pull out at the very last minute.)

I've posted about this before, but I didn't expect to feel this shit. The not getting long-listed, not getting feedback has really knocked me for six. Every time I enter a creative writing competition and the date for notification is coming up, I find myself playing stupid games - like, if I can beat the bus to the street corner I will be shortlisted - ridiculous, I know.

I feel like I have gone from being lauded at school and to an extent at University, for my writing to being nothing. (How self pitying I sound!)

There was a piece in The Guardian recently saying that all writers should serve their apprenticeship, but I feel like I've served mine.

herecomethepotatoes Mon 04-Apr-16 15:17:13

Where did you serve your apprenticeship (your phrasing, not mine). A lot of it is learning from seniors as opposed to freelance work, surely?

Before my masters in linguistics / language, I was determined to be a writer. Thank God I didn't as it's a thankless task. Languishing away spending a summer writing for a local rag was the closest I got.

Thought about a side-step within the field? Which aspect of writing particularly interested you?

MartinaJ Mon 04-Apr-16 15:19:41

Have you tried putting your writing on Amazon for Kindle? Just to see how it fares?

travellinghopefully12 Mon 04-Apr-16 15:25:51

Potatoes I feel I've put in the hours, and I have been lucky enough to encounter two or three kind and successful authors who have read my manuscripts and given me pointers. Perhaps I need to serve even more of an apprenticeship, though?

Martina I've considered that, but feel like it might fall flat. I am not very good at the marketing schtick which it would involve, and would rather just write and let someone else who knows about design and marketing do that.

Thank you so much for your replies. I just want to become more resilient without losing that vulnerability which is so essential in a writer - or should I say sensitivity? What a balance.

shovetheholly Mon 04-Apr-16 15:44:55

It is hard, it just is. Because it all feels so personal. Having done both 'normal' jobs and writing, I feel that there is no reference point in the 'normal' world of employment for the way rejection feels. (Not saying that others can't understand it, just that it's more like the kind of personal rejection you get from human relationships than anything in the normal world of graduate office work).

Stop doing the magical thinking. You know this isn't about hocus-pocus but hard work. Your successes to date, and they sound considerable, have not been about luck, but are the fully-deserved result of your own hard work. Don't diminish yourself!

Don't treat competitions like the be-and-end-all. Other people can be idiots, especially when reading submissions in haste! Remind yourself of all the great writers who have had work rejected - work that subsequently went on to be really famous and significant. The criticism and views of peers is valuable, but it is not more valuable than your own voice and judgement. (This goes for peer reviewing in the academic field too).

Above all, give yourself credit, fully, for the good things that you're doing. Because you're actually doing really well. You're getting good writing gigs, and you have an established position. Furthermore, as the nature of the beast, writers rarely get applause from anyone else, and it's neither narcissistic nor childish to shore up your own sense of self-worth by reinforcing creative behaviours and squashing thoughts that are self-defeating and unhelpful. Many people just do this automatically, but for those of us that don't have that kind of confidence, it's something we have to grow artificially. I actually have a basic click counter on my mobile. Stupid as it sounds, it really does help to give myself a 'count' every time I write a paragraph that's half decent or get an idea straight.

pillowaddict Mon 04-Apr-16 15:59:09

I'm experiencing similar just now with being knocked back for a funding bid for the charity I work for. I'm gutted, not just because it might have implications for my job and those of my colleagues, but also because I take it personally as I did the bulk of writing. Previously I have been successful in important applications and I hate feeling I've let my organisation, and myself, down sad not sure what advice to give as I'm struggling myself except that I know I need to pick myself up and consider the context of my work as not being bad, just not as suitable as someone else's in these circumstances. Not easy, but seems little other choice!

travellinghopefully12 Tue 05-Apr-16 13:21:51

Shovetheholly thank you so much for taking the time to write such a lovely message. Yeah the magical thinking is a bit OCD (had OCD as a child and I think it stems from that - if I turn this light on and off six times before bed my parents won't die - was one of them. It's something which gives you a false sense of control over something you know you have no control over, if that makes sense?

I will keep writing, but am riddled with doubts, and however daft it sounds I want to have published a novel before I have DC - and I'm 30! What sort of things do you write holly?

pillowaddict I'm so sorry - what can I say other than you haven't let your organisation down - there is so little funding and so many people want it, and they probably recognised the merit of the application but had no money to give you. I'm so sorry though.

shovetheholly Tue 05-Apr-16 13:28:41

You're only 30. You have loads and loads of time grin. And the idea of writing a novel is not daft at all, it's a completely achievable ambition for you. This week/month is bad... but there will be successes just around the corner. flowers

I am writing an academic book at the moment about modernity, selfhood and space. It is hard work and I feel a bit despairing at the moment because I'm really stuck with one part. It's coming... but slowly!

DryShampoo Tue 05-Apr-16 13:39:17

Travelling, are you trying to have a novel published, and have been entering an unpublished MS in competitions? I was doing this last year, and I hardened up after being absolutely distraught at the first thing I wasn't longlisted for. And I should say that the same MS last year wasn't even longlisted for a small award, was longlisted but not shortlisted for quite a big award, and made it to the final five for a major award (alas, didn't win). Then, for another equivalent award later in the year that I had been asked to enter, not even a long listing.

Keep going. You say you've 'put the hours in', but then you say later on that you spent the winter working on your project, which (assuming it's a novel, especially if it's literary fiction) isn't very long at all. The novel I'm currently working on I've been writing for 4 years. I think I'm on about draft 30, possibly more, and on editorial advice, I've just completely restructured it.

And I happened to meet two very successful newish writers (not UK - one short story writer, one novelist, both with debut books that got dazzling reviews in this country and won several awards) last week, and both debuts had taken years and years in the making, 40 plus drafts, and a real struggle to find an agent and a book deal one one case in particular...

WetLettuce123 Tue 05-Apr-16 13:40:14

I'm in a freelance field too and feel your pain. I feel like although I excelled at school and in academia I then chose a creative and competitive field and now feel a 'waste'- dramatic as that sounds. I suppose you have to take comfort int he fact that you are doing a job you enjoy and making a living from it. Try not to be pessimistic about the good jobs that come along. IMO from the outside people will perceive you as being highly successful, even if you have tough standards to meet for yourself.

AristotlesTrousers Tue 05-Apr-16 14:08:15

I can so feel your pain, travelling. I'm still gutted that I didn't get long-listed for the Fish Short Memoir comp, which came out last week. I entered a story I'd put so much into, that I'm starting to question why I do this. I can't give up, though, and I hope things improve for you, too. Feel free to PM me if you fancy a rant/story swap about writing rejection.

Zaphodsotherhead Tue 05-Apr-16 14:39:16

In the old days (when I started writing), they said you had to write a million words before you could get a book published. Nowadays, with self publishing, it feels like anyone who can write 80,000 consecutive words has 'published a book'.

It's tough. Try to remember that reading is subjective, and a piece that one person hates another will love. And the difference between the writers who succeed and those who fail, is that the ones who succeed just kept trying...

travellinghopefully12 Wed 06-Apr-16 11:50:55

Dry Yeah, that is what I'm doing. It's a struggle. I've been lucky enough to have some friends of friend who are writers agreeing to read my stuff and feedback, which is great - and they have been very honest (sometimes brutally) but they said that this time my work was ready. I know that's not a guarantee...

holly your book sounds really interesting. I'd be really interested to read some if you're up to showing people? Totally get it if you're not ready.

lettuce thank you - yeah, the excelling at school and university then suddenly being competing with all the people who excelled is tough. I went for drinks with friends the other night, after my OP, and they were like 'oh it must be so tragic and shit to be you...working as a journalist and interviewing actors and authors...' and I was like - 'OK, I'm being self pitying.'

Zaphod I really don't want to self-publish. Maybe a million words is the way for me....(although I may have written that many already - if the deleted and inane ones count?)

DryShampoo Wed 06-Apr-16 12:02:59

Travelling, these judgements are so subjective, though. Are you sending out to agents, too, and getting requests for the full MS? Have you considered paying for an editorial report from a good, reputable agency, as a way of getting more neutral/ impartial advice on the readiness of your MS than friends of friends? Or applying for one of the regional writing schemes funded by the Arts Council, which, if you're successful, match you with a mentor? A multi-award-winning writer I know still runs everything she writes by her local writing group.

I'm an academic and much of my job involves writing, but it's a completely different type of writing, which I don't think 'counts' at all as regards my novel - other than a certain discipline about getting words down and meeting deadlines. It doesn't help with plotting and characterisation and pace and making a reader see and care about the world I'm writing about. I imagine journalism might be similar in some ways, especially if you are continually writing shorter pieces to tight deadlines that you simply don't have time to draft fifty times?

travellinghopefully12 Wed 06-Apr-16 17:03:44

Thanks shampoo - Yes, I was actually turned down for mentorship - that was one of the rejections which hurt the most, but I am applying again for the 2017 mentorship.

I was actually wondering if anyone knows any techniques for dealing with rejection, as it seems an inevitable part of life and one I am very bad at taking?

ImperialBlether Wed 06-Apr-16 17:26:13

I think you are mad to enter competitions then get upset when you don't win. Honestly, it's like buying a lottery ticket and expecting to win.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure you're realistic about what you're writing. What genre is it? Have you sent it to agents? Does it have a fantastic hook? Have you done an "elevator pitch"?

Last November I got an agent with my third novel (I had two self-published) and now it's been bought by big publishers in several countries. To be honest, I think it's the hook that sold the book - it was something that I could sum up in a couple of sentences. Certainly when I told people about it they immediately said "I'd read that." I don't think my other two books were like that. I know literary fiction is different, but if you're writing in a particular genre, you will need this.

I chose the agents very, very carefully this time. In the past I sent them to agencies whereas this time I sent it out to specific agents who liked that sort of novel and I referenced what they said they liked. A huge majority asked to read the full ms and said the pitch was great; that hadn't happened before.

I think you just have to have a very thick skin. It's a bit like dating - if you're not right for them, they're not right for you. You have to put your best foot forward, though, and show yourself in your best light otherwise someone who might be right for you might not be attracted.

ImperialBlether Wed 06-Apr-16 17:28:20

What helped me immensely was having other people who were at the same stage that I was at - each of us sending submissions out at the same time - to moan to. Emails would fly back and forth - "Why don't they reply?" "That bastard said no" etc and being able to make fun of the situation really helped take the sting out of rejections.

MatildaBeetham Wed 06-Apr-16 17:36:25

I'm going to come back to this when not on phone. Your OP has struck a big chord with me. flowers

Zaphodsotherhead Thu 07-Apr-16 12:03:02

I'm multi-published. But I'm no better at writing than loads of unpublished authors, I just got lucky and hit the right person on the right day.

Hence the 'keep trying'.

DryShampoo Thu 07-Apr-16 15:27:59

I would have said that a journalist would have a rhinoceros hide in terms of pitching stuff and having it rejected!

I don't have a 'technique' for rejection, other than recognising that if I want to be a published novelist, rejection is something I need to take on the chin as a normal part of the writer's existence. With agents, I deliberately 'forget' I've sent it out - competition rejections may be harder because there's a specific deadline, and you know for sure that someone has read your work and slung it on the 'no' pile, rather than being able to hope it's languishing on the slush pile.

(But you don't know how close you were to making the longlist, of course - I happened to find out 'unofficially' once that my longlisted entry came in at number 6 of 20, but they shortlisted only 5... )

Even established novelists have to deal with rejection. A friend of mine who has published several well-reviewed novels with a big publisher has still had to deal with failing sales at one point (since revived) and her editor telling her that her new MS didn't work at all, and she was absolutely distraught. Another who writes literary fiction had her children's book (kindly) rubbished by her agent.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now