I have a writer friend who, like myself, is trying to get his first novel published. At the start of his quest for an agent, he’d say, “Now this is the fun part,” and I’d think, “Yeah, like cutting off your own hand with a chainsaw fun.” I haven’t heard him repeat that phrase lately, but it’s interesting in one sense. Any writer who can elevate to the level of “fun” the grueling and painful process of getting a book published should feel seriously accomplished, published or not.
I’ve noticed that when I think about rejection in the privacy of my own home, I’m pretty hard on myself; I’m either a moron or lazy or simply not a very good writer. In public, I swing wide the other way; I tend to euphemize the whole process to the point where I don’t recognize it, or myself. I manage to reduce publication to an aside. To others I might say, “just writing a novel’s the main thing,” which is not untrue. It feels great to have written and polished a novel. But then, I do want someone to read it. Thousands of someones. Which takes publication.
This sometimes happens: I run into a friend who remembers I’ve written a novel, and she asks, with a glitter in her eye (you know that glitter), “Have you published your book yet?” For some reason that question always strikes me funny, as though not yet publishing my book were simply an oversight, like I just forgot to do it, like how I might forget to buy eggs or pluck my eyebrows. Oh yeah, heck! I should do that, wow, thanks for reminding me! Makes me vow, as I watch the friend’s departing back, to slit my own throat before I tell ANYBODY else ANYTHING about my novel. A vow I will forget after the pain goes away.
So how does one not get depressed when one’s book isn’t sold? For one thing, if no new effort has been made, no new depression is warranted. In actuality, the depression comes from the static, big, dough-ball of inactivity, in which things, not good things, roll around and microscopically join forces and sour the whole mess, because nothing is truly static. Things degrade and deteriorate if left alone, like the raccoon on the side of the road.
So here, do something, I say to myself. Explore new agents, pour over pitch books. Journal like mad. Write, about anything. And if at the moment nothing excites me, fine. I can write about unexciting things.
Back to my writer friend. He has a unique way of avoiding disappointment. In essence, he pre-rejects himself, so there are never any surprises. When he queries an agent, he says, but not in so many words, “this is my book, it is what it is, and screw you if you don’t like it.” Hmm. This tactic may not get his book picked up, but there’s something unequivocal and solid in the water-off–the-duck’s-back attitude. It’s certainly a way to feel in control of the situation, if control is what you’re after.
P.S. I’m not talking about self-publishing here, of course, which is an entirely different ball of wax, with its own beauties and sticky points.