Q: Hi Katie, How’s it going? I remember a post you wrote maybe last semester about rejections…I’ve had a string of them recently. Trying to rationalize (“maybe it wasn’t a good fit,” “you’ve got to be a better reader,” “you’ve got to be a better writer,” etc.) Do you have any advice for not letting that feeling take over the day? It’s kind of hard when it’s the first email you wake up to! Hope all is well!
A: Oh, sweet. I definitely know how it is. For me, the only way to “not let that feeling take over the day” is to meditate. Because when I meditate I remember that I cannot control everything. We live in a world that suggests if we only bought this or did that, we’d be able to control everything: our future health, happiness, success, and prosperity. When we feel that as writers, it can lead to despair, because we blame ourselves for our own rejections.
BUT you know as well as I do that editors have personal tastes, ideas about shaping a particular issue of a magazine, and more submissions to read than they really have time for. So you KNOW the rejections aren’t about the quality of your work, but about larger factors over which you have no control.
What you can control: that you keep writing. That you keep reading the things you love, the things that connect you to this world. That you keep putting words together to try to understand this bizarre, incredible life, because that’s what you really do it for.
And if it takes a little weeping, ok. If it takes a bit of screaming (I find in my car is good, where no one else can hear me), ok. If it takes the scribbling of some truly terrible lines about your despair and fear, that’s ok too. Because your real life project isn’t a book, or your career. Your real life project is yourself, and that’s the fucking hardest project possible, but also the only one that’s truly important.