Dealing with Disappointment

Post SYTYCW I thought I might put up a little post about disappointment. Because I KNOW what disappointment tastes like and it’s not bitter aloes. It’s dog meat. Or cat’s breath. Or dinosaur turds. Or like your most hated food doubled. Crap in other words.

Anyway, I know I didn’t enter but I do feel the pain of everyone who didn’t make it into the top 28. Believe me, I’ve been there. I entered SYTYCW and New Voices twice. Both times with both comps I got precisely nowhere. Not even a callback. And that’s not even counting all the rejections and knockbacks I’ve had both before and since.

And you know what? It doesn’t matter how many times someone says, ‘competitions are so subjective’. Or ‘it doesn’t meant your story is crap’. Or ‘it was just a popularity contest’. Or ‘hey, I didn’t get anywhere and look, I’ve sold fifty bajillion books’. Not getting anywhere STILL SUCKS!  And you’re allowed to feel bad about it, just like you’re allowed to moan about it to trusted friends and family and like-minded CPs.

But the one thing you must NOT do is give up. What you have to do is figure out a way to deal with the disappointment and carry on.

Because being disappointed doesn’t stop with getting a rejection or not placing in a contest. It follows you through once you’ve been published too. You might not get the sales you wanted. You don’t like your cover. You don’t want to have to do the heinous revisions that have just landed. Your next story idea has been nixed by your editor. You didn’t get the agent you’ve been hanging out for. You didn’t win the Rita or get the Nobel Prize for Fiction.There’s a whole host of disappointments just waiting around the corner in other words. So you kind of have to accept that if you want to be a writer, disappointment is something you’ll have to live with.   

My method, at first, was chocolate. Then shopping. Then alcohol. Then crying on the couch. Then more alcohol. Then weeping over my computer to my CPs. Then more alcohol. You get the idea…But despite all that, the best way of dealing with disappointment for me was writing.  Getting excited about a new story, immersing myself in that instead of thinking about what I hadn’t achieved. And then sending out another submission because while a submission was out there, I had hope. Pathetic maybe, but true.

It was about this time last year that I’d just about had enough. I’d had a few contest successes locally but only one partial request – that I angsted about so much the writing of it became terrifying rather than exciting. Then came nothing with New Voices and along with it another rejection. I’d just about had it with writing. It wasn’t fun anymore, it was a chore. I was so scared to write anything because I found myself second guessing EVERYTHING I wrote. Did I have conflict? Were my characters acting consistently? Was it just about sex again??? My passion in life had become an unpleasant task and it was awful. I hated it.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know what I did after that. But I’m going to say it again because it bears reminding. What I thought  was ‘bugger this’ and flung all my craft out the window and wrote something that I didn’t think I’d ever submit anywhere. It was for me and me alone. No one was going to read it so I could write whatever the hell I wanted. If I wanted lots of angst? Go for it! If I wanted lots of sex? Go for that too! Tough alpha male? Yep. Sweet. Friends to lovers? Do it. So I did. I wrote my story and completely broke out of the fear trap I’d got myself into. And the key to it was that NO ONE was going to see this so it didn’t matter what I wrote.

And it became my first sale.

So that’s why I say don’t give up. Do whatever you have to do to deal with your disappointment. Then get back in the saddle and keep going. It’s the ONLY way it’s going to happen.