I’ve been reading Jane Friedman’s The Business of Being a Writer over the past few weeks. It is a smart book about all the nonwriting stuff that goes into having a writing career, however we may define it. And one quote has stuck with me particularly.
“Resilience in the face of rejection and disappointment is perhaps the biggest key to success [in writing].”
In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to be roommates with a writer. She was older and a great deal more experienced than me, however she took my beginning writerly ambitions and my poems seriously. I submitted my first poems to a literary magazine, and when I was sent a rejection form she said to me, “Congratulations! You are a real writer now!”
How does a writer become resilient even without having a good writer roommate?
Become a reader for a literary journal. The slush pile is mighty. As you read submissions, you will quickly see that all good writing does not get immediately published and that rejection is not personal. You might like something, but another reader doesn’t. I once rejected a poem from my small grad school literary journal that I read years later in Poetry.
Terri Lynn Coop says it better (scroll down to the comments).
Submit a lot. Make a routine for submission. Do your research, but don’t pin your hopes on an individual journal, grant, agent, or contest. The more you submit, the more you will be rejected, but also the more you will be accepted. The year I decided to submit to three places a week was my best year of publications ever, even if I didn’t manage to do it all year. As soon as you get rejected, send the work out again.
Make sure your submissions are good (not to mention typo free) before you send them out the first time and do not reread them before submitting after that. Feel the self-doubt and submit it anyway.
Find a sense of self-worth elsewhere. I don’t know how to tell you to do that really, but find a hobby that brings you pleasure and people that support you. This is very important.
Stay off social media. Sometimes you’re going to feel like shit even if you are a resilient person. Sometimes you’re going to feel like everyone but you has a book, a prize, the best spouse ever, perfect children, a clean home, and a new kitten. Get off social media and find the hobbies and people and books that sustain you.
When you can’t write, read something good.
How do you find the courage to submit another day?