Rejection and being a writer go hand in hand, everyone knows this. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
Find out how failing could actually make your writing better…
A couple of weeks ago my writing took a bit of a blow; having had a spectacular start to the masters course with A+ grades and general good feelings about my work coming from most angles, I decided to take some risks with my subject matter and style. I thought I had stepped up my game, I felt my prose had taken on a poetic aspect and I was writing the strange, macabre tales I would love to read. But, without any prior notice, my grade dropped rather significantly. Perhaps the risks were a mistake, or perhaps the process of marking creative writing will always be a subjective practice no matter how greatly objectivity is pursued. Either way I didn’t take the criticism very well. I called my friends who met me immediately in the pub for five hours of Articulate (possibly the best board game ever) and copious amounts of cloudy cider. Hugging the toilet bowl the following morning, a promise I had made myself a few years ago not to turn to alcohol in times of rejection/massive self-pity resurfaced. A little too late maybe, but I reaffirmed it that day all the same.
The hangover went, but my confidence took a plunging nose dive. No longer writing everyday, absorbed in the thing I love to do more than anything, no longer sure I was good at anything at all. My tutors were great and tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t stop the niggling little voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough every time I opened my laptop to write. I lost the nerve to read at Inky Fingers and pulled out of the open mic slot, so sure I was that everyone would hate whatever I read out. Although this reaction was possibly a little over the top (drama queen, moi?) I realised just how fragile my belief in my own ability to write was.
What to do when your confidence is low? I knew the remedy instantly. My mother is probably the wisest person I will ever meet, and her words do something outside your comfort zone rattled around my head like some medicine that would have to be swallowed sooner or later.
On Friday we had an entire day of talks from publishers and literary agents about ‘the business’ and in the evening the opportunity to read out our work. It had to be done. Terrified as I was, I knew this was the step I had to take to shake myself out of that negative place, to move on to the next phase and get over my first major ‘rejection’, of which there will undoubtedly be So Many More. Turns out I was first up; double daunting. In those moments before I went on stage I had what I suppose you could call a mini-epiphany. It doesn’t matter if they all hate what I am about to read, I told myself, even if every person in the room hates it, I like it and that’s what matters. That’s what matters. Suddenly I wasn’t nervous. I read out my piece, and enjoyed it. I moved from the poor me, I’m a reject phase into the this is me, like it or leave it phase, and what a liberating place that is to be.
The other thing I realised, is that when I’m feeling terrible about myself, my wonderful friends will always be there to take me to the pub to drink cloudy cider and play Articulate until I forget my worries, what a lucky girl I am.