Monday, October 26, 2009

If Rejection Didn't Hurt, It Would Be Called Candy -- by Kristy Kiernan

The topics this cycle on A Good Blog Is Hard To Find are "rejection" or "bad reviews" (which are one and the same as far as I'm concerned). Or, as writers prefer to think of it: re-DEAR-GOD-HOW-CAN-YOU-POSSIBLY-HURT-ME-LIKE-THIS-jection, with the attendant wailing and gnashing of teeth. And I assure you, I could teach a class on rejection. I even have an inspiring story, one that will likely make you shake your carpal-tunneled-claw at the sky and vow, "If Kristy Kiernan can do it, then so can I!"

But the thing is, little that I say is going to actually change how you feel. You're still going to feel like crap when you get a rejection from a magazine, or an agent, or an editor. And you're going to feel depressed and hurt when you get a rotten, barely literate review on WeRead, or an "I can't believe that ANY woman would ever enjoy this" one-star on Amazon, or a "Meh" on Goodreads, or an "I couldn't even bring myself to finish it" on LibraryThing.

And you will read everything you can about rejection and bad reviews, and you will take those pep talks to heart, and you will repeat them fiercely to yourself at four in the morning, and you will hear them coming from your own mouth when someone offers you sympathy, or empathy, or is even passive-aggressively trying to make you feel bad. And you will assure yourself that you BELIEVE them. And maybe you do.

But it won't change how you FEEL.

And I've gotten to the point that I actually don't think you should change how you feel about things. I have come to believe that you should embrace all the insanity rather than fighting it. (Stay with me here.)

See, it's all about time management.

As an example, let's condense the time you spend on one rejection/bad review over the course of two months:

The Rejection/Bad Review Comes In

Minutes spent barely breathing before finally reading it = 3

Minutes spent repeating everyone's words of wisdom as you read it = 7

Minutes spent rereading and seething = 237

Minutes spent re-repeating everyone's words of wisdom as you reread it (seething) = 311

Minutes spent kvetching about it to friends and family = 172

Minutes spent finding and reading more words of wisdom about rejections and bad reviews = 117

Minutes spent calling other writer friends to subtly induce them to make you feel better = 108

Now, here's the really important part--

Minutes spent feeling badly about yourself for feeling badly about things that everyone's words of wisdom tell you that you shouldn't feel badly about = 124,917

Do the math. It's just not efficient to try to NOT feel hurt.

Look, you are going to feel badly. You can be brave as you want and you can spout back all the words of wisdom that you want, and tell me how you're fine with it, and you don't even READ reviews, but…I know you read the reviews. And I know you're not fine with them.

I also know that you're brave. And I know that a lot of those words of wisdom DO make you feel better, and that your logical self knows that these words are true.

But what's illogical to me is that we often spend more time beating ourselves up for feeling badly that someone said awful things about something we so earnestly worked on to make as good as we possibly could. It hurts. And it doesn't matter that it's a professional review (Kirkus is evil and snarky, the Times is elitist), or an amateur review (what do I care what some hick in **** thinks? They gave Mama's Big Blue Wig five stars…loser), or a big agent (I didn't want to get lost in a giant agency), or a small agent (I'd never even heard of her before), or a major house (they only publish pabulum for the masses), or a specialty house (they couldn't get me into the big box stores anyway).

It still hurts.

Rejection HURTS.

If it didn't hurt, it would be called candy.

So? Feel the hurt. Go ahead. Here's the big secret: You're going to anyway.

Bring on the hurt. Live it, feel it, and feel okay about it hurting. Stop wasting so much time making yourself feel badly about being hurt and denying that you do. Don't obsess, don't be a narcissist, but acknowledge that yes, you read it, and IT HURTS.


You don't have to admit it to me, but at least admit it to yourself.

This is an inescapable part of this business. INESCAPABLE.

And the time you spend in the hurt isn't the travesty. The travesty is the time you spend beating yourself up for being human. You're a writer because you feel the need to address being human in some way, so cut yourself a little slack and free up some writing time by being honest with yourself.

Go forth.



Then write again.

Kristy Kiernan lives in south Florida with her husband, who always thinks she's brilliant, and even when he doesn't, he never puts it in writing. She did not wallpaper her guest bath with her rejections. Instead, when she was published, she threw them away, without fanfare. The hurt went with them.

She is the author of Catching Genius (2007) and Matters of Faith (2008). Some people did not like them.

She has great hope for Between Friends, coming in April of 2010, but she's pretty sure that someone isn't going to like that one either.


The Blue Suitcase said...

Kristy, these are words of wisdom a writer really can use. Also, I'm pumped to find this blog! (Thanks to Hope E for sharing the link.) I look foward to reading more!

JD Rhoades said...

Genius, as always. And timely.

Barb Meyers said...

I've been writing so long and rejected so often I EXPECT to be rejected and when I'm not I'm either a)quite skeptical (this editor probably has no idea what she's doing) and/or b)pleasantly surprised. I am sure done crying about it. For the moment, anyway. But then mine is just one subjective opinion...

Ad Hudler said...

You know what, Kristy? As an author I have a strong opinion about this: No one should be able to write a published review about a book UNLESS HE/SHE HAS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED A BOOK HER/HIMSELF!

So easy to criticize from the sidelines, isn't it?

Kristy Kiernan said...

Thanks, Blue Suitcase! Dying to know the story behind that name :-) Not sure who Hope E is, but thank her!

JD, timely perhaps, but fleeting, my friend. That book's gonna fly.

Barb, so many things I admire about you (as you know), but your practicality is way up on the list.

Ad, can you get a law passed or anything?

Patry Francis said...

If there's anything good about the hurt, it makes you very reluctant to inflict it. Maybe that's why writers are the kindest people I know.