My story sort of starts with rejection, and if I’m honest with you and myself, it was the right way to begin my journey. The experience wasn’t a pleasant one, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
There isn’t a time in my life that I can’t remember not being a reader. For the first seventeen years of my life I was an army brat, and being extremely people shy, growing up and trying to find my place in the world offered a lot of challenges. So pleasant, most not so much. Reading was my escape, and sometimes excuse, not to talk to people. It’s and escape/excuse I still use a lot 😉 and now I’m not even ashamed to admit it.
With that reading came one massive imagination. Or is it the other way around? It doesn’t really matter, the two go hand in hand. Before long I found myself not just reading the stories but experiencing them as well. Now that I think about it, experiencing and being the characters of the books I read might have been the start of my love for first person POV. Maybe it chose me instead of me choosing it.
My first attempt at noveling went okay. It started out as an epic fantasy and reach the fantastic amount of 10 000 words. I still have the printed out pages close to my writing space. I can’t remember why I stopped, but I think it was because I started my studies and there was no time for anything else. Insert a few personal tragedies here, life happens, and a year or so later found me writing a short story for one of my university classes.
It was the beginning of a new year and my lecturer wanted us to get our creative juices flowing and gave us an assignment. Write a fairytale short story. The best one gets a prize. Of course I jumped onto the assignment, it’s the kind of thing I love. I wrote the story and won that prize, R50 I used to buy myself lunch 🙂 After I won I was full of writing love. I had stars in my eyes, ready to pull out that epic fantasy I’d started and make something of it.
And then a friend offered to read my short story. I’ve never been critiqued in my life when he offered this. It was before I knew other writers, before I knew what being critiqued entailed, before I knew how to handle rejection. I was greener than you could ever imagine. He read it and completely ripped it apart, and I was devastated. I’d poured my heart and soul into this little story and he’d found nothing right with it. It had been a hard blow. It’s worth noting that most of the things he critiqued as being wrong with the story, were the things that are trademarks of short stories, but I hadn’t know it then. I also didn’t have a decent grip on what subjectivity meant.
After that critique I stopped writing completely for four years. FOUR YEARS! That’s about three years and 364 days too long. I can’t remember what went through my mind then except utter devastation.
But that devastation told me one thing, something I’ve come to realize over the last couple of years: Back then I wasn’t ready for what it meant to be a writer. Not the work that went into writing and completing a novel. I wouldn’t have had the courage to send out my novel to be read, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to handle the critique I would have received. If crits from a friend stung that much, image what I would have felt when they came from a stranger.
Back then I wasn’t ready. It’s as simple as that. I’ve grown a lot since then.
Yes, I wish I’d started earlier. But then my story wouldn’t have been a journey. This is mine and I accept it for what it is. Every now and then I wonder where I would have been now if I hadn’t stopped writing. It’s only natural. Guess I’ll never know, and I’m okay with that.
I still receive rejection on a weekly basis. It’s a part of life and in everything we do. It’s in the queries that get rejected, the contest where our pitches don’t get picked, the novels we send out to be read and then hear nothing from the readers(Yes, this has happened to me more than once. lol that novel must be a really bad one :D), when somebody doesn’t respond to a blog comment or a tweet. It’s in the negative reviews we’ll receive. All of those are forms of rejection, no matter how you look at it, and there are plenty more. All us writers possess a smidgen of neuroticism, we’ll find rejection even if there isn’t any.
But you know what? Rejection makes you stronger. You understand. It teaches you how to handle things and commiserate with fellow writers. You get to say you know what it feels like and actually mean it.
Since my first rejection I’ve written plenty of novels that I myself have rejected, and I’m okay with it. My worst rejection was also my best rejection. Everything after that I can handle.
Rejection doesn’t dictate my life and mood like it did back then. I accept it. It’s part of life and I know I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be.
Helpful agent rejections aside, have you had any that helped for the good? It doesn’t matter from where it came.