"I’m here to tell you it’s okay if that latest rejection broke your heart...You can’t help but take it personally sometimes. If it wasn’t personal—if you didn’t feel to the depth of your bones that this thing you created needed to be shared with the world—well, you probably wouldn’t have sent it out in the first place."
Sometimes I think being a writer is the most difficult profession in the world. Not because of the actual writing (although I have those wringing-words-from-stones days too), but because of everything surrounding The Dream of Publication.
And isn’t it just the grandest, most glorious dream?
Except it’s also discouraging, agonizingly glacial, and so subjective it’s not even a little bit funny. Everyone always tells you to expect rejection, to not take things personally, to develop a thick skin…
Which is great and all, except a lot of writers are by nature thin-skinned, sensitive, deep-feeling creatures—and I think that often goes hand in hand with being creative. We’re the wide-eyed dreamers who are always staring up at the stars and drinking in the scent of the trees and watching dust motes dance in sunbeams. We pour our unique way of looking at the world into our writing, along with—let’s be honest—substantial pieces of our beating, bleeding hearts.
In what UNIVERSE should that kind of person offer themselves up for brutal critique and constant, bald-faced rejection? And yet here we are…
I’m not here to tell you that The Reality of Publishing is Bleak. I’m here to tell you it’s okay if that latest rejection broke your heart. It’s okay if you need to curl up on the floor and cry for an hour, or eat an absurd amount of ice cream, or just sit on the couch and play Candy Crush for a whole day.
You can’t help but take it personally sometimes. If it wasn’t personal—if you didn’t feel to the depth of your bones that this thing you created needed to be shared with the world—well, you probably wouldn’t have sent it out in the first place.
"The hurt is real and sometimes it takes a while to get past it—that’s okay too. Sometimes you’re not ready to get back into the game right away. Let yourself heal. Take a break. Go on a trip. Start reading a new book or re-read an old favorite. Stare out the window and daydream, reconnect with that thing that made you fall in love with storytelling in the first place."
I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, but started seriously pursuing The Dream of Publication after college. I wrote a couple of novels. I revised them. In the fall of 2008, I started querying my third novel, and had my first taste of Rejection.
Fast-forward SIX YEARS, and I was back querying a revised version of that same novel, after a really discouraging several rounds of querying a different novel (including an almost-contract with an indie pub). I was getting a lot of requests, more than ever before, but I was also getting SO MANY rejections on those requests. It was absolutely soul-crushing. I thought it was never going to happen for me, that my particular brand of storytelling was never going to be good enough. It seemed like every day someone else was announcing on Twitter that they’d signed with an agent—some courtesy of all those Twitter writing contests I kept entering and never got picked for. My rejections kept piling up and piling up and piling up.
And then the thing I never thought would happen, happened: in April of 2015, after receiving FOUR agent offers, I signed with Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. I was ELATED. I didn’t think I would ever stop smiling, and honestly sometimes I still can’t believe it’s real!
I spent months revising for Sarah, and then came the much-hoped-for Next Step: Going on Submission. I can’t really go into what all that’s entailed so far, but to give you a little hint, crying on the floor and playing Candy Crush for a whole day didn’t exactly happen during my querying run…
There’s this song called “The Starting Line” by one of my all-time favorite bands, KEANE, that goes like this:
Drag your heart up to the starting line
Forget the ghosts that make you old before your time
"That’s what the journey to publication has been like for me—you get put down and crushed over and over and over again, and somehow (when you’re ready) you find it in yourself to drag your heart up to the starting line and try again. That takes courage."
This process can be long and hard and sometimes brutal. Go easy on yourself. Dream. Feel. Imagine. Explore. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Don’t let go of your dreams.
I’ll leave you with a few more KEANE lyrics, from their song “On the Road”:
When the world’s laying you low
Don’t you let it rattle your bones
Sometimes a dream itself can keep you safe
All along the road
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joanna lives in Mesa, Arizona with her dear husband and a rascally feline named Bertie. When she's not writing, she's trying to convince her piano students how awesome Bach is or plotting her escape from the desert.
She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. She aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower.
Joanna is represented by Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary.