Tag Archives: confidence versus doubt

On My First Rejection Letter

I sent out my first query at about seven last night.

By the time I went to bed, I had a rejection in hand. (Well, in box.)

A kindly worded, encouraging rejection, but a rejection nonetheless.

It’s okay. I was prepared. Rejection is the name of the game, so I hear, and I had no illusions that the first shot into the blue would strike a rainbow or anything. I sent it off the way I buy a lottery ticket — much more this almost certainly won’t work, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it did than THIS IS THE ONE — so the rejection is not in any way shocking.

What surprises me is how little it bothers me. Seriously. I went to bed feeling not terribly upset about it, but I figured I was still in shock over the fact that I actually mustered up the nerve to send it off in the first place. But I woke up still feeling not all that upset about it. Kind of like finding a bunch of fallen leaves and pine straw on my car: not what I particularly like to see, but not unexpected, and certainly not going to impact my day in any way.

A far cry, in other words, from the soul-crushing despair I might have expected after submitting the fruits of over a year of work to one of The Gatekeepers and receiving a resounding “eh” in return. I feel like I should be thrashing in an existential tsunami of doubt. Like I should be questioning every creative thing I’ve ever done. Like I should be getting seriously depressed about all the time I spent working on this thing. But I’m not doing those things.

This confirms — for the moment, at least, but check back with me after maybe a dozen rejections — what I’ve always known about writing: the hardest thing to do is to actually start doing the thing. The step that always seems impossible is the first one.

It’s like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There’s that cave on the other side of the cavern, with an impossible chasm in the way. The only way to get there is a leap of faith. He resists every natural instinct in his body and steps out into the void, only to find out — there’s a bridge. Just not one he can see from where he’s standing.

The worst part is over. The leap is behind me. And all of a sudden, that step doesn’t look nearly so intimidating at all. Kinda makes me feel silly for dreading it so much.

In fact, the second letter has already gone out this morning.

To Extremes

This week’s prompt is “an emotion and its opposite.” Now, the obvious one is love/hate, and that would be an easy one to explore. As a writer, I swing back and forth between loving and hating my work like the tides. Hell, I swing back and forth between loving and hating the craft. But love/hate is obvious.

No, the dichotomy that seems most apt to me is confidence/doubt. These two phases, like the peaks and troughs of a ray of ultraviolet light, alternate with alarming alacrity (triple alliteration bonus, whee).

One minute, I feel at home in the me who is on this adventure. I know what I’m doing. I’m staying smart, looking sharp, making good decisions. Every new bit of text is a good one. Every cut makes perfect sense. Every edit improves the whole. There is no shaking me off the course I’m on as I work inexorably toward writing the best inaugural novel that’s ever been written.

Then the light goes out, and I remember that I’m miles deep in an unfamiliar jungle with the dark rustle of foreboding creatures of the night on all sides of me. That bit of dialogue I thought was scorchingly clever the first time around seems a bit hackneyed upon further review. The character arc I’ve worked so hard to create feels like a flamingo on roller skates; all awkward angles and feathers crashing everywhere. The cut that felt so necessary when I made it now looks like a gaping wound, and the patient is bleeding out.

Then I stop working for a while, and by the time I come back to the novel, I feel like I could drive nails with my forehead again.

Do any other writers suffer from the same up-and-down, hot-and-cold, bulletproof-then-made-of-glass feeling? Do all of them? I have a hard time believing that my sentiments on writing are unique, but by the same token, not every writer can be so schizophrenic.

In fairness, though, the ride is pretty fun. There’s something to be said for riding the roller coaster til you throw up the oversized cotton candy you just horked down while you were waiting in line. Then wiping the pink fizz from your lips and lining up for another turn. Some might call that crazy.

No, that would be me. I’d call that crazy. I’m too old for that sharknado. But the writing, okay. I can handle the swings of that ride.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

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