Sunday, January 15, 2012

When Is Enough Rejection Enough?

I’ve been undergoing an Existential Writer Crisis for about the last year. I thought I’d be over it by now, but it just keeps getting worse. In fact, it’s really starting to feel like that “I give up entirely” feeling.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s my first memory (drawing a book); it was my identity in elementary school through college (Tanya Wants To Be A Writer); and it’s been the driving force in my life. Every experience I’ve had has been filtered through a writer’s experience. Knowing that I could write about something helped me be more adventurous, and it’s helped me cope.

With my 1st book, I self-published, knowing that the market was saturated with Chick Lit novels. Agents loved it, but no one wanted to invest. When “Blunder Woman” was published by Champagne Books, I thought my chance had finally happened. Once people discovered my work, they’d love it and I’d finally get those big contracts that many of my colleagues have.

Then the sales started rolling in. And by rolling, I mean barely a trickle. High hopes turned into sober reality. Not only were my books not the staggering success I really thought they’d be, they were virtually invisible in a world where a book is published nearly every second. I’ve probably sold less than fifty books; maybe closer to twenty-five.

I’ve done all the things you’re supposed to. I’ve built up a platform on Facebook and Twitter and my Blog. I’ve “engaged with my readers”. I’ve joined writer groups and attended conferences where I’ve pitched my novel, received requests, and then had a response of silence. I’ve written through pain and loss and love and beauty. And I keep writing.

The question is…do I keep promoting? How long do you keep sending your work out until you realize that maybe your best is only second rate? When is enough rejection enough?

I don’t know. I struggle with this every day.

I try to remain upbeat and positive, but lately I feel pummeled. And it’s coming from all sides. My kids are in a moody difficult phase. They don’t like anything I cook. They don’t like anything I do for them. They’re annoyed by me. Husband has been sick for two weeks and is not himself and grumpy. Teaching is good, but it’s still a one-year contract, so maybe I’m not good enough for a real-long-term job. Narrating is going well, but I can’t seem to get work at any other companies.

It’s like I’m doing okay, but am consistently second-rate. And it’s making me tired.

Now I’m asking a real question of myself: how much has my pursuit of this dream kept me from actually living? If I look at everything through a writer’s lenses, does it separate me from everyone else? And when is it okay to give up?

I submitted “Foodies Rush In” to three online presses. It was through a pitch session. Two writers from this pitch session already got offers (within 24 hours!). I’ve heard nothing. I’ve made a last ditch effort with Foodies…had it edited, have someone creating a cover for it so that I can self-publish this too. But it does feel like the last gasp before dying. I’m putting the last of my belief and energy into getting this book out there. I never wanted self-publishing. I wanted to be a ‘real’ writer. I know the arguments. Everyone will say “You ARE a real writer”. But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted a contract. I wanted my books in a bookstore. So, I guess the dirty shameful secret is that I didn’t want to be JUST a writer; I wanted to make a living at it. I really thought I could.

It’s not happening for me. I’ve seen friends appear on NY Times Bestsellers lists, NY Notables, books distributed nationally, highlighted as Michigan Authors, even a guy I dated in college was on the Daily Show. I can’t even get my books into a local bookstore and give a reading because I’m ‘just a local author’.

When is it okay to let go?

I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m just tired of constantly working and trying. Maybe I just need a vacation from being a writer for a while. And I need to go out and win a ribbon for something. Anything. I just need something besides yet another rejection after decades of rejection.

I’m sure some of you can relate.


Lisa Orchard said...

Hmmm...thought provoking for all the writers out there. I say believe in yourself and don't give up!!

Andrea Dickinson said...

Sorry to hear you're going through a rough patch. As someone who's read your work, I say "Keep going!!!" You have a unique voice and need to write.

To prove it: I dare you to try to stop!


Patricia Kiyono said...

I thought you got three requests from the pitch! Keep positive. Write some more and then when someone comes to their senses and publishes your work, you'll have a lot to give them!

J.C. Hanks said...

Mary Janice Davidson hates me. Because on my first agent submission I got a "We really like it, but don't love it enough to try to promote it at this time" rejection. Her first rejections weren't as nice. And I'd only been playing with the idea of getting published for a year.

Her point was, it took her over 10 years to get her first contract, and the first book she wrote wasn't the one that got picked up. Fred, her mermaid series character, was her first book, Betsy, the vampire series, is what got picked up.

So, have heart that even after a decade of rejections there may be another book that you haven't pitched yet, that may be picked up.

I'm not worrying about the rejections. I know that big contracts are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and right now publishing is in big turmoil. It'll take at least another decade for it to settle out (I've seen this happen in IT too).

I write because I have to, otherwise the chaos in my brain won't let me concentrate on my day job.

Perhaps you're next book should be what it's like to be trying to get into the mainstream publishing game - from BlunderWoman's POV. You never know, it may get picked up. :)

Inspired2Write said...

Hi Tanya, I only visited the GRRWG group this weekend. Not sure if I met you, but just want to send a bit of encouragement your way. For what my 2 cents is worth, I say allow yourself to take a break if you'd like, but please don't give up. I think between weight loss attempts and writing, I'm the queen of "try, try again." :) If anything, you should be proud of your persistence. You should also be glad that you are actually pitching your writing. Sounds simple, but there are many writers who write, but don't ever finish, and if they finish, don't put it out there. At least you won't have to wonder, "Gee, if only I'd written that book."
Your children will be proud, and likely one day, be inspired by their mama's efforts to make her dreams a reality.
So please do not lose heart. You have much to offer! -- GRRWG "newbie" Teresa

Brynn Paulin said...

Teresa! It was awesome to meet you last weekend! some point, you have to stop and have a serious talk with yourself and ask yourself, "why do I write?" Most of us want to be published but most of all the answer needs to be "for me. I write because I want to. I write because I have to."

The journey to getting published isn't easy, but you know that already. And sometimes, it takes a long time. I wrote six 100,000 word manuscripts (and several partials too) and submitted and waited and got rejected for over 8 years before I sold anything (1999 to 2007).

I know that no one wants to hear it, but it takes time, patience and persistence.

Jennifer Armintrout said...

Tanya, I've had this "when is enough enough" conversation with myself so many times in the past three years. I'm in a little bit of a different situation than you, because I don't have the option of quitting. Writing is the only thing I can do. But I often feel like I'm the one person at the writer party who doesn't get the hint to go home. And as the rejections keep on rolling in, I sit here and think, "If no one wants me, why am I trying so hard." I wish I had the magical answer that would make you feel better, but I don't. Just know that I feel what you're saying, so there's solidarity there. You're not the only one having this conversation with yourself.