Ben and Jerry’s has the most amazing flavor of ice cream called Chubby Hubby. It is a single pint of decadent saturate-your-sorrows in 35 grams of sinful artery-clogging saturated fat and it’s-probably-better-if-you-don’t-read-the-rest-of-the-nutritional-information yum-inny goodness.
For several years, it was my favorite fallback when things weren’t going so well. Call it depression’s best friend and my waistline’s worst enemy. I could easily eat a pint (or two) all by myself when I was upset. After today’s twenty-ninth check of my author email, it is perhaps advantageous for my britches and my overall general health that Chubby Hubby is no longer available in my area.
I just received another rejection for another query letter of my newest book. I know you might be saying “Big whoop….someone else said no to you…..move on.” Believe me, I get the sentiment. I tried that approach for about five minutes as I wrote my Thank You letter to the kind assistant who sent the rejection letter on behalf of the oh-so-busy agent. But after I hit the ‘Send’ button, it hit me. This rejection letter was yet another paving stone in the road of this journey of mine that has been my entire life in the making.
I have read enough blogs over the years to know that most writers are CONVINCED they were destined to be a writer ever since they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Right after they unplugged from their mother’s nipple and moved onto solid foods, they picked up the pen and began the path to their future career. At that point, I was still dragging around my bangy (blanket), believing the Cookie Monster was a real person, but what the hey. I was a kid.
As far as my grasp on my future grown-up career, I couldn’t say with any level of certainty that I knew what I wanted to be in my adult years as I was learning my A-B-C’s and delving into the wonders of easy arithmetic. I was pretty much all over the map with my career options up until just a few years ago.
My aspirations for the future began with marine biology, slid into mathematics, dallied in the arts, and a million other possibilities as I explored the world. I even contemplated becoming a mermaid once, but I heard the pay was appalling and the benefits mere fish food.
The point is, making grown up decisions when you are a kid, especially decisions that affect the rest of your life was neigh impossible. I was impressionable and was tossed around by the winds of other’s influence. What I should want for my future and what I was allowed to dream for myself was invariably tainted by the pressures of those around me. Writing – as in being a writer – wasn’t even a blip on my horizon.
It didn’t matter that I loved it or that I pursued it all the time in the shadows of everything else that swam within the margins of my conscious brain. It wasn’t considered a “responsible career.” I allowed myself to be pushed in other directions.
All the while I was poking at the possibilities that the future had to offer me, in the background of my uncertainty and throughout my endless exploration of life, I wrote. Stories, poems, ditties. Some were good. Some were not.
Regardless of the quality, everything I did, everything I wrote, had a vast daydream lurking behind it. Even as I pursued the hard sciences and pushed my intellect the brink of utter overload, I brought imaginary worlds into being and hid their existence in the notebooks and papers that littered my bedroom, my car, my backpack, and sometimes the napkins that were my only source of paper. My dreams were my playground and my solace.
I craved those worlds and the promise they offered. I read voraciously, further stimulating the imagination that ran unchecked in my untamed mind. Never once do I remember consciously thinking “I am a writer” or “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” Writing was something I simply could not help but do whenever and wherever possible.
In fact, I had teachers, faculty, and friends telling me writing wasn’t my thing when they saw me scribbling in my notebooks. I was anything but a writer. So I made sure to write when no one was looking. The thing was, writing was inescapable. Like a fungus on wet, socked feet.
It was like a wooing lover that would not relent its sway over me, until finally, one day the truth dawned on me. I was the little writing crack whore who only felt satiated with a pen and paper in her hand. I could only find that sense of completeness and accomplishment when I was immersed in the written word. It was my burning desire. Let other people embrace the rat race and the corporate ladder.
World building. That was my utopia. It had only taken me my entire life to come to that understanding about myself.
Now back to Chubby Hubby and the consummate ‘no’.
I realize that every writer has to make their bones, and usually the road to doing that is paved with rejection after rejection. The platitude is always tossed about that writers need to have a thick skin. While that may be true, part of me says even rhinos with their thick, plated skin can be killed so thick skin alone isn’t so great a defense. Having “thick skin” suggests you are not allowed to feel bad when bad things happen, and that is a load of crap. That is how people end up leaping off of buildings….because they believe they have to “handle things” in silence and put on a brave face when they are feeling anything but brave.
Rejection hurts. It’s why there are so many songs dedicated to the subject. The best way to deal with it (in my humble opinion) is first, to be honest about it. It sucks. Pretending that it doesn’t isn’t helpful. Next, have a great group of people who can be there to support you when the rejection happens. I am not talking about people who will tell you to stop feeling what you are feeling, and I am not talking about people who will help you wallow deeper in the sorrow than you would on your own. I am talking about level-headed friends and/or family who will listen and then help you see that the light at the end of the tunnel is hope and not an on-coming train.
For me, it was my family. My mom is a Chicken Soup For the Soul contributing author who has seen her share of triumphs and disappointments in her admirable writing career. My dad is a fellow writer and my faithful morning writing partner who has seen me through many a dry spell. And then there is my sister who is a brilliant blogger and all around great friend. They were all there to lift me out of my Chubby Hubby fog and set me back on my feet again. And let me not forget my faithful little pommies who know that sometimes puppy kisses really are the best medicine.
Whatever you do in this crazy race, don’t do it alone, friends, and don’t give up. Yes, it is hard. Falling on your fanny sucks, but luckily, fannies are padded so bouncing back from a fall is not as hard as you might think when you have helping hands to lift you up.
A great story will get you far. Perseverance will get you farther. See you at the finish line.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to connect with H.L. Stephens on Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. Also check out H.L. Stephen’s mystery series The Chronicles of Mister Marmee. Book 1 – The Case of Jack the Nipper and book 2 – The Case of the Wayward Fae are available in print and eBook format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers. Coming Soon! Book 3 – The Case of the Monkey’s Misfortune.