How To Keep Rejection From Eating Your Soul

If there’s one thing that all writers can agree upon, it’s that getting rejected sucks.

As someone who tends to spend years tolling away on long-form works like novels and memoirs, I haven’t played the literary magazine submission game too often. Now and then, I feel compelled to send out a few pieces, and most don’t get accepted. I didn’t mind as much in the past because I stuck to poems and short stories. However, this time I did a submission blast specifically for essays and excerpts from my memoir.

Sending out such personal and sensitive work for the first time was difficult. While I don’t have much of a problem with others reading about my life (even the embarrassing, weird, and awkward parts of it), having that same work rejected from the get-go was a much more frightening prospect.

gummi-bearAnd I did get rejections. So far, I’m 0 for 5 with 2 submissions pending. When the negative responses started to trickle in, I did lose heart. Those moments you receive rejections are the ones you most question being a writer…well, not including the ones when you get so frustrated while trying to write something that you put your face in your hands, groan repeatedly, give up for the day and eat a bunch of gummy bears while watching Gilmore Girls reruns.

Actually, I might be the only one who does this. But I’m sure you have a similarly strange frustration coping process. (Tell me in the comments!)

I’m not going to pretend that this process didn’t shake my confidence. It did. However, as I’ve been posting about this endeavor on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve received many comments from people who have also struggled with rejections. Everyone has assured me that not only is it perfectly normal, but that in many ways rejection makes you stronger as a person and a writer.

This response from talented memoirist and craft book author Sue William Silverman was my favorite: “I received a gazillion rejections before I received my first acceptance…and I still receive rejections. It’s just part of this being an artist thing we signed up for. Just remember how subjective it is. The important thing is to never, ever give up!”

That’s really the key thing to remember when submitting work anywhere, be it a literary magazine, agent, or publisher – it’s subjective. A lot of the time, a publication is overwhelmed with submissions. Sometimes, your writing doesn’t match the reader’s personal preference. Rejections don’t mean you’re a bad writer. They just mean you haven’t found the right home for your work yet. The right home for your work might even be indie or self-publishing. You have the power to accept your own work and allow readers to decide for themselves whether they like it.

My take-away from this submission/rejection process is to:

1. Keep working on your craft. The writing itself is ultimately what matters most.

2. Keep submitting. Eventually, you will find a home and audience for your work if it’s well-written and meaningful.

3. Share your journey with others. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by rejections. Getting those words of encouragement from my friends, fellow writers, and well-published authors is what saved me from spiraling into a pit of self-pity and defeat. Take advantage of this thing we call social media and reach out. It’s a much more effective coping strategy than eating gummy bears (and way less fattening).

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Why Writers SHOULD Blog About Writing

I’ve finally zeroed in on my biggest problem when it comes to blog writing. For years now, I’ve been hearing that writers shouldn’t blog about writing.

There are way too many blogs about writing, they say. Plus, only writers will read them. You’re trying to reach readers.

First of all, if my only reason for blogging is to use it as a platform to find readers, I might as well not even try to maintain a blog. My desire to promote myself and my future books isn’t quite strong enough to make me compose weekly blog posts. Unless I have something I truly need to share with the world, I can’t force myself to write about it.

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While there’s more to my life than writing, it’s the form of expression that I feel most passionately about. Writing is the art I have been practicing and studying for most of my life. I’ve been obsessed with writing one particular book – a memoir about dealing with mental illness as a child and teenager – since I was 12. That project alone consumes a great deal of my thoughts, time, and energy.

If I’m not allowed to talk about writing, I’m not allowed to talk about one of the most important aspects of my life.

However, the piece of advice I see just as often as “don’t blog about writing” is “blog about something that you care about.” Jeff Goins wrote a great post about this. When I ask myself what I care about, writing is the first thing that comes to mind. And I don’t only care about writing as a form of expression; I explore and express everything else I care about through writing. Whether it’s relationships, family, understanding mental illness, finding a place I belong – I process my world and experiences through writing about them. And that process is something I find endlessly compelling and fascinating.

Henceforth, I give myself permission to blog about writing. And to anyone else out there struggling to figure out what they should blog about is…you’re allowed to write about whatever the hell you want. If you’re a writer who cares passionately about writing, you should feel free to blog about it. What draws readers to blogs is quality content, and quality content can only be created about the things you really know and care about. For a lot of writers I know, that thing is writing.

So, don’t ever let any so-called “rules” of self-expression stop you, because that’s all those rules will ever do – stop you.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

I can’t believe it’s been an entire year since I posted here. So much has happened in my life since then.

I’ve thought about revisiting this blog many times, but I always get tripped up on the “what the hell should I write about?” challenge. In my creative work, I spend a lot of time exploring my life and my past. The first draft of my memoir is almost finished, which is a pretty big accomplishment on its own, considering I decided I wanted to write it when I was 12 years old and have been actively working on the manuscript since 2009. I’ll be finishing up my MFA in Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles in a matter of months. I’m set to graduate in June.

My personal life has also taken some turns, and most are definitely for the better. I’m still figuring out this whole being a writer/adult/human thing. I’ve been coming up against some physical challenges, and the occasional emotional one thrown in. And even though I struggle with confidence and fears, I know I’ve progressed as both a writer and a person. Maybe I don’t always see it, but it’s there.

So, where do we go from here?

I know I’m big on talking about how I’m not sure what to write. It’s what I do instead of actually writing and creating. For now, I will leave you with some new projects I’m involved with. But I haven’t forgotten about this blog, and someday (hopefully soon) I will figure out what to use it for.

babysun-logoIntroducing: THE BABY SUNS

The Baby Suns is an art collective I started a few months ago with my partner-in-crime, the talented artist, Pj Kneisel. We have a webcomic in the works and a zine called Burpy Lovebirds. Issue 1 is now available online, and the comic will be launching soon.

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An Update on Me and the Blog

Photo by Alana SaltzAs you can see, my posting here has become a bit sporadic. I’ve been spending most of my time writing, editing, and doing social media & event planning for the fabulous Writing Pad school in Los Angeles.

So, for now, I’ll mostly be using this blog to post updates on my projects and publications. The best way to keep up with me on a more regular basis is to follow me on Twitter.

In project news: I have a new YouTube project my nerdier readers might enjoy. It’s a gaming channel where I play and discuss old school video games like Super Mario 64.

In publication news: I am now a contributor at The Urban Dater and The Well-Fed Muse.  I also have work forthcoming in East Jasmine Review.

 

 

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Project for Awesome 2012, and The Power of Giving Back

In this new world of social media and independent publishing, it can be really easy to get caught up in the tunnel vision of self-promotion. We’re told as writers, artists, and musicians that we need to build a platform to sell ourselves and our work or else we’ll never be successful. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed myself getting far too wrapped up in promoting myself and my own projects and not thinking enough about connecting with others and supporting the issues that I believe in.

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted a YouTube video as part of the annual Project for Awesome 2012 charity event hosted by John and Hank Green (aka The VlogBrothers). I chose to do mine on The Help Group, a nonprofit organization that runs several nonpublic high schools in the Los Angeles area. They specialize in individualized, small classroom education for students with emotional and developmental disorders. They recently acquired my alma matter, North Hills Prep, to keep them from going under due to a lack of funding.

Amazingly enough, my video was featured on the Project for Awesome website and livestream. Thousands of people watched my video and left comments on it. I was completely blown away. But what was even more incredible was that a bunch of my high school friends and teachers saw the video and told me how much they loved it. The Help Group even screened it at an event they hosted with over 500 people and personally thanked me for supporting their cause.

The whole experience made me realize that it’s important for us to use the reach we have via the internet and social media to promote good causes and bring greater awareness to issues we care about. While my intention in writing memoir is to share my story in order to help others, it’s hard to stop myself from getting caught up in dreams of fame and success.

It’s difficult not to get sucked into the self-promotion mentality we’re trained to develop as independent artists. That mindset, while very human and practical, is also somewhat flawed. When we focus all of our attention on ourselves, we aren’t able to form real connections with others or produce meaningful art.

Of all the things I’ve ever created, the project that’s received the most attention and appreciation is one where I was promoting a cause that I believed in. That’s not a coincidence. People connected both with the personal experiences I shared in the video and the passion I felt for the cause. And that kind of connection is the most valuable and meaningful in this cluttered, crazy universe of social media and promotion.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Help Group, please visit their website or watch my Project for Awesome video. Although the Project for Awesome is over for this year, you can still check out the videos on the website to learn about the many wonderful organizations doing important work all over the world.

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