Sunday, December 2, 2012

THE SEVEN STAGES OF GRIEF (after rejection)

Grief is the response to a loss. The loss could be felt for the death of a loved one, friendship, a business loss, or some other thing considered dear.
If you’re a writer you’ve probably experienced this feeling at some point—probably more than once—over rejection. And you’re allowed to; after all, you’ve poured everything you had, your heart and soul, into a project that you’ve been growing for months, maybe years, only to send it out into the world and get rejected.
Your foundation is shaken, your dream shattered (at least temporarily), your confidence and hope fade like a pair of worn-out jeans.
Everyone in the business encourages you, tells you the best way to handle it is to start on your next project (actually to start it the second you go out on submission). Which is excellent advice; as long as you’ve moved on, or are at least allowing yourself to move through the grieving process…

Step one: Shock and disbelief after hearing the news of the loss.
I had some early interest by a few publishers, one in particular where a senior editor at one of the big houses loved my manuscript and asked for second reads. Unfortunately, she didn’t get 100% agreement from the acquisitions team so she had to pass. To be that close only to end up being passed on was pretty devastating and took some time to settle in.

Step two: Denial-refusal or ability to accept the reality of the situation.
I had to wrap my brain around the fact that I had spent countless hours slaving over something that may never see the light of day. I refused to accept that it was the end of the road for my book—until the rest of the rejection letters trickled in. (I plan on revising eventually and still believe there’s hope: )

Step three: Bargaining is what most people do when hearing of the loss, wishing to reverse the damage.
If I could only make some changes, if the editors would just take a chance on me, I’d do whatever it takes to make it right. Please God, I’ll be a better person; I’ll volunteer to run for office in the PTA, coordinate the can drive, and even offer to be the official Box Top for Education counter and checker of expiration dates. I’ll take part in a fundraiser for a disease I’ve never heard of and unicycle cross-country with a bike club (even though I have no unicycling experience whatsoever). I’ll help search for nearly extinct beetles in the Mohave desert (after I take a look at a map and figure out where the Mohave desert is), if you’ll just let my dream come true.

Step four: Guilt usually overlaps bargaining, blaming oneself.
I felt overwhelming guilt for taking away so much time from friends, family, and especially my children to chase a dream. I have a feeling that no matter the outcome I will always have some guilt.

Step five: Anger expressed outwardly; usually when the grieving process starts to manifest.
I was mostly angry with myself; my writing wasn’t good enough, I didn’t know enough, I didn’t write fast enough. But don’t think the green-eyed monster didn’t rear it’s ugly a head a few times when my writer friends and I would discuss published books that we deemed “pure crap”: )

Step six: Depression—occurs frequently throughout the grieving process.
It’s a hard thing to admit, especially from someone who likes to consider herself a glass-half-full-kinda girl, but depression hit me hard at times, making it difficult for me to continue my next project. Since my WIP was a series idea, it held an emotional connection to my rejected submission. After much struggling, I eventually set it aside and started something brand new. This was a tough choice since I’d actually spent a considerable amount of time plotting, outlining, and had written nearly half of a novel. I don’t regret the decision though, and plan to get back to it eventually.

Stage seven: Acceptance and Hope—realization that things cannot be reversed.
The realization that things are working out just as they are meant to, and that I have no control over timing, is a huge step. I’m not saying I don’t backslide on occasion, but at the end of the day, I have two options when considering the pursuit of my writing career A) dig in and try harder or B) quit.

How many of us have had to pick up our pages, revise them for the bazillionth time, or set them aside and start something fresh altogether? The alternative is letting our characters die, letting our dreams die; and wouldn’t that just give us a whole new loss to grieve??

P.S. Option B was never an option: )


Kurt Hampe said...

I get that we're talking heart and soul stuff here, but would you really run for a PTA office? Couldn't you just donate a kidney or give yoursef to the devil?

Interestingly, and I think this is a gender thing, I tend to get annoyed by editorial rejection, rather than sad--sort of a mix of "Hulk smash" and "Man see problem, man fix problem." It would help if the solution involved smashing.

Katie McGarry said...

This is amazing Colette! Very heart felt and funny.

Kurt--your comment also made me laugh!

Kristin Lenz said...

Yes, honest and thoughtful, Collette - you could have been talking right to me! :) I'm very glad I met you along this journey, sharing the ups and downs of these stages, and pushing forward. Cheers!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This is a great post. And timely as I will be querying soon.

Colette Ballard said...

Aww, thanks guys!
Kurt, I asked myself the same thing-ha!
Katie, thanks for being there for me through all the stages.
Kristen, ditto!
Best of luck, Natalie-querying is an exciting time!
So great to share these experiences with people who get it and support each other: )

Bethany said...

Great post! It's also really good to say "Don't give up." Glad you put that at the end--it's the bottom line. :-)

Jane said...

I really love how you took the idea and juxtaposed it onto your experience writing - or your experience not getting signed by a publisher. But the difference is that you can't ever really lose the experience that you had: Your understanding of the world of business, your experience of writing and the effort you put into it. As a mom, you wouldn't want your children to not have a sense of what their dream is, or to not explore what their talents are, and it's also important to be able to help them to navigate life. I think you can salvage much to teach them.

Either way, who knows what the future will bring.