The Thrill of Victory, and The Agony of Defeat
When I was a kid, Saturday afternoons were ABC's Wide World of Sports days. My Dad was a sports nut, and since we lived in the country and winters were often hard, we'd inevitably find ourselves huddled around the TV watching whatever happened to be on that day. I enjoy sports, but I've never been a live-or-die-by-what-team's-playing type person, although I always loved WWS. The intro used to capture me - over and over and over again. Whether it was the athlete sprinting across the finish line or the ski jumper losing control and whipping a three-sixty in a cloud of powder, I was always awed.
I have known those same emotions the past few years. Not because of sports, but in my quest for publication. The agony of defeat in this business can be overwhelming. The first few times I got rejections from my top agents - agents I was sure would love my work - I was devastated. I knew just what that skier on the intro to WWS felt. Although mine wasn't a physical pain, it hurt just the same. We've all had those letters - the ones that say, '...not right for me at this time', or '...there was much here to love, but...' or, my personal favorite, '...I didn't love it enough, but someone else may feel differently.' No matter the wording, it always boils down to one specific point. You can practically read it through the lines - You just aren't good enough.
The agony of defeat. It can be crippling if you let it. If you don't develop a thick skin, it can make you question who and what and why you're here. The key is not letting it get to you. Whenever I got one of those letters, I always read the lines and heard in my head - you aren't good enough. And I always, always added one more word - "yet". I wasn't good enough yet. But if I worked hard enough and was persistent enough, things would change.
Little things have kept me going over the past few years. Small accomplishments, what I like to call my thrills of victory, have counterbalanced the rejections and heartache. An agent emailing me after reading my partial and asking for more ASAP. A beta reader telling me they love my hero. My critique partner commenting on a particularly well-written section. My friends and family, more excited about my publishing prospects than sometimes I think I am. My agent saying she's more excited about pitching my book than she was when she signed me or my mom, who doesn't even read in my genre, telling me over and over how proud she is of me. Those are the small victories that carry me from rejection to rejection, and they are the ones I will treasure forever.
I am not a naive writer who thinks publication is going to solve all my writing problems and make me a big star. I know there will always be rejection, that there will be many moments of defeat in my future. For me, the little thrills will buoy me from one success to another, even when that success may simply be a good friend laughing and asking me how the heck I have all those ideas floating around in my head.
How do you stay inspired amid the rejections? What's your secret for staying motivated and not giving up?