Yesterday my manuscript received its first rejection. I found out moments after being fitted for a helmet for a horseback trail ride with my eight-year-old daughter. I’d pulled my iPhone from my pocket to make sure the camera was ready to go, and decided to check my email given that I’d followed up with the agent a few hours earlier.
I read his words – that I’m a “terrific writer” but the story sounded a bit too familiar and he wasn’t convinced he could get a major publisher on board, that he hoped other agents would feel differently, and that he wished me the very best of luck – and had to accept he wasn’t going to be the agent to represent me.
An agent I desperately wanted to represent me.
The wacky part is that I was okay. Even after five years of working on this manuscript, and after all the serendipitous moments that led up to and continued through the writing, I had come to a place where I have to believe that publication will happen, and will happen in a glorious way I simply can’t visualize yet.
I’m not sure whether I’ve got it all together or am delusional. As my mom says, “Time will tell.” But I do know that I couldn’t have been in a better place to receive the disappointing news. My horse’s name was Carl, and for an hour holding his reins through leafy parkland and overgrown fields filled with wildflowers, I concentrated on the sounds around us: the creak of my saddle, the croak of the frogs, the swish of horse tails. I stared at my daughter’s back in front of me. I closed my eyes and meditated (only for a few moments at a time; I was nearly ejected within the first ten minutes of the ride when Carl tripped and hadn’t been the steadiest in my seat since).
Beauty in it all.
I feel blessed to have a manuscript I believe in, that my beta readers believe in. Time to move forward on this project and start the next one.
I do wonder why I’m not allowing myself a pity party. Maybe because that would put my focus on the rejection and not on what needs to happen next to get this thing published. Who knows? Maybe I’ll feel differently at a highly inopportune time and fall to pieces while pumping gas or on my way to interview a client.
For now, I continue to see that there’s more to finding the right fit for my manuscript – to life, in fact – than we’re often able to predict. This morning, for instance, another happy accident. In the few moments I had to glance at Twitter, I clicked on only one link, which led to a blog by London author Jessica Thompson. Her perspective lost after learning some major retailers wouldn’t be stocking her third novel because sales of her second weren’t as good as her first, she found comfort in words from her dad, which I’m sharing here because they’re poignant and altogether true:
“I’m an old man now, but every night I sit in my garden and think, another day, how nice. Another day with my family in my life, and my dog, and that’s really how you have to start seeing things Jess…Readjust your viewpoint on the world, you’ve not failed. Life is a relay race, and every step ahead leads you on to the next level. Nothing is wasted, and everything you do that takes you forward is positive. So what, you’ll probably never be famous, and so what, you’ll probably never be a millionaire, but you’ve done so incredibly well, no one can take that away from you, and the fact that you are a wonderful writer.”
This is what we writers need to trust: that we have succeeded because we are doing what we love to do. Because of this project I have developed close friendships, experimented with a more creative writing style, and received validation from a professional I greatly respect.
How can I be sad about that?
If you’re up for sharing your rejection story (and aftermath), I’m all ears. What we have in common makes us stronger…