Last week I wrote to tell you that I had changed my writing goals: instead of aiming for a small number of acceptances, I’m now submitting stories everywhere to achieve a huge number of rejections – and in doing so, playing the averages and the odds to get even a few things accepted. I was inspired by this blog and thought that after an intensive year of prose workshops during the MA that I would be ready to cope with it.
Well, I was (mostly) wrong.
After several rejections in a row – many without feedback, many with a form email rejection, one with very negative feedback – it becomes more and more of a challenge to sit back down, put fingers to keyboard and start again, either to edit the story that just returned, battered and bruised from the world, or to send a new story out to face the battle of the slush pile. After so many rejections, that little voice of doubt gains a bit more strength, clears its throat, and starts that old, terrifying refrain: Maybe, you’re just not good enough. Maybe, you’re just not a writer. Maybe, you should just admit defeat, and go get a real job and forget all this. After a few days, if I’ve not successfully throttled that voice but whatever means necessary, it loses the maybes, switches from the subjunctive to the imperative, becomes less insidious and more insistent.
For someone with anxiety and depression, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between reality and whatever the hell this voice represents.
I try to stay away from the internet during these episodes. While I love the fact that I now know lots and lots of writers, and I am so proud and pleased and absolutely thrilled when they get accepted, get interviewed, get the recognition they deserve … that little black demon voice in the back of my soul uses their successes to highlight just how truly awful a writer I am – look at them, they’re brilliant, they’re doing oh so well, yes, okay, whatever they ‘deserve’ it, they ‘worked hard’ (Yeah, that black demon is a complete twat who uses ‘air quotes’), but you don’t, because you just putz away, and hope that someone will do all the hard work for you, and by the way, your writing sucks ass. No air quotes. I stay away from the internet, and wrestle with the black demon, stabbing it through the throat until all I can hear are gurgles as it drowns in its own blood.
Rejections are hard. But I’m going to tell you every time I get a rejection. Every damn one. I’m going to celebrate the rejections as much as the acceptances (okay, maybe not as much). I hit 17 rejections last night, and even though I knew it was a gigantic long-shot (BBCNSSA 2016), I had to try. But it still stings.
Time to re-read that bruised and battered story, give it a trim and a polish, and fling it back out with a loud Tick-ensian cry of ‘CATCH ME!’ and see where it lands.
I’ll let you know.