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May 12, 2011 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

Rejecting rejection

I got kicked in the teeth repeatedly last week, figuratively speaking–writing rejections up the wazoo, including the CBC.  My baby was restless at night for five nights in a row, furthering my ill humour.  I finally stopped checking my email or opening SASE’s for three days because I was so sick of rejection.

Writing is a strange life because you get rejected so much.  Some people distance themselves by thinking of it as a business, e.g. compiling a spreadsheet of rejectance to acceptance ratios, but I can’t be bothered to do that.  Plus it would just enrage me.

When I asked my friend D about this, he put it in a more useful way for me.  He said that instead of getting depressed and feeling like a Big Fat Loser, he thinks, “Foolish editor.  Why do you waste my time like this?  Now I must send it to another market, all because of your impaired judgement.”  Sounds funny, but overall, people who blame external circumstances (editor, the economy, etc.) are less prone to depression than people who blame themselves.

This time, I took stock and realized that usually when I get rejected, I get angry and start marketing like a fiend, spending hours glued to the computer, researching markets and sending out queries and partials, bam bam bam.  But you know what?  I don’t have the energy if Max wants to play all evening and Anastasia wants to yell at night and then cling during the day.  Also, I realized that I tend to reward myself only if I’m “good.”

If you study, you can eat ice cream.

If you get over 90%

Over 95%

If you get into medical school.

If you fit into those jeans.

If you’re pregnant.

If you’re pregnant and can still fit into those jeans.

If you minimize your use of fossil fuels.

If you do yoga.

If, if, if.

F the ifs.  I’ve worked hard to counteract this.  After years of doing yoga, I learned the Sanskrit term ahimsa (non-violence) and realized that always comparing myself to others, forcing my body into poses it wasn’t ready to do, is a form of violence against the self.

Well, so is getting mad at myself about rejections.

Anger and humility have their uses.  I’m a much better writer and tougher person (with pachydermal skin, as Karen Joy Fowler put it) after honing my craft and throwing my work out there again and again.  But it’s a double-edged sword.  As part of my insights after my CBC contract, I realized that success if all in your head.  In some people’s eyes, I’m already a success.  In others, I’m still a Big Fat Loser.  But really what matters is what’s in my own head.

Yoga counsels you to “let go of that which does not serve you.”  Marketing like mad, like an ape throwing feces and hoping some of it sticks, no longer serves me.  Buddha pointed out that clinging causes suffering.  Or as Queen put it, I want to break free.

So I went off-line and for Mother’s Day, I hugged my children and then abandoned them to their father while I checked out les Tam-tams de Montreal.  I danced to the wild drumbeats in the sunshine in the park while people sold jewellery on blankets and a homeless guy claimed prime real estate space and nodded along to the music.  I rewarded myself even though (or especially because) I’d had a crappy week.

When I finally checked my email, The Medical Post had asked me to do some consultation and The Wild Rose Press asked me for a rewrite.  So it wasn’t all “so’s your momma” messages, even though it felt that way.

I decided to get my previously sold stories and potentially my unsold novels out there in ebook form.  I’ve hesitated on this because my past sales have been, well, three total.  I guess it felt like another rejection.  But I decided that

1.  This is the wave of the future;

2.  Past performance is not indicative of future results;

3.  It’s good to have a record of my stories out there in case my plane goes down on the way to Oregon next weekend;

4.  It’s not actually a big deal if people don’t buy them, since I enjoy doing the covers and stuff–a different form of creativity;

5.  Even if it is a rejection, so what?  If no one asked me to the prom, I’d go stag.  If I don’t put my ebooks out at all, it’s like staying home and listening to the radio.  At least if I get my books out there without promoting them, it’s the equivalent of going to the prom and hanging out in the bathroom with the other girls.  Or something.

Basically, I have to decide that my self-worth is not determined by another person’s rejection/response.  I’ve already done this in other areas of my life.  For example, one half of my acquaintances greet me and my baby with “Are you still on maternity leave?” and the other half with “You’re not back to work yet, are you?”

And now it’s time to nap.

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2 Comments

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  1. cindie / May 12 2011 12:38 pm

    Man, you ARE hard on yourself. Years and years ago I read the Writer’s Way (was that what it was called? It was a book that had 12-weeks of assignments), and I did every activity, assignment and challenge for the 12 weeks. I did it with a couple of friends so I’d have a support network. I don’t remember much of it and lots of it was just going through the motions, but one of the assignments was to just go somewhere new every week. Check out that little shop or the park you always drive by. See a movie, read a book — that you usually would pass by. Try a new restaurant or a new food. Meditate, pray, play a video game, whatever quiets your mind. Drive a different way to work, walk a different way to your child’s school. It totally revived me, and I still try to keep up with it, though it’s more like once a month these days. It wasn’t a matter of reward, but simply a matter of indulging my creativity by refilling the well (the idea being that when you’re always putting creativity out, you burn out. You need to bring new things in). Seeing new things, trying new things, writing new things. It’s all connected.

    And now for business Cindie: ebooks are a long-term game. Don’t sweat the story, sweat the career. Your stories are wonderful. Stick with putting up new stuff, build your inventory, build your readership. Have short stories that feed into collections that feed into novels. Use pricing to increase your views of one piece to increase the sales of another. The words speak for themselves. Your job should just be to get them out where readers can find them, then be patient and let the universe and capitalism do their work. If you want to try promoting them, do! But if not, let them do their own thing. Either way, with enough inventory, the stories will build their own momentum. But give them time. They’re children. They don’t come out running. They will learn to walk and then run. But nurture them. Don’t berate them or give up on them. Or yourself.

    • melissayuaninnes / May 12 2011 2:44 pm

      Cindie, I love you. I like Julia Cameron too. Doug and I tried to do one of her books together too, and I do the Artist Dates when I can. That’s what the tam-tams were for me, actually. I also think of her when I walk the dog and when I write early in the day, getting it out of the way, so I can just goof off the rest of the day (until I start marketing, if I’m “good”).

      Ebooks–you’re right. Thanks so much for the techno advice on putting them up. That’s what I’m going to work on more seriously now. And thanks for commenting publicly. I hope more people see your wise words and snap to it.

      xo M

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