Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Face of Rejection

This is what rejection looks like. This is what rejection feels like.

My sister's dog, Ferbie, was definitely feeling rejected. We had told him he had to stay in the motor home (yes, he understands a fair amount of English) while the rest of us went on an outing. The thing I love about dogs is that they show their feelings. No putting on a stiff upper lip. No need to appear professional--as though nothing in the business world is ever supposed to hurt us. He's wounded and he shows it.

Of course, when we got back he immediately forgave us and did an ecstatic happy dance. Another great thing about dogs.

I was talking to a blogger buddy a couple of days ago about the need to vent and cry on each other's shoulder when the rejections are starting to get to us. I decided we need that right here on this blog today. I'll go first.

The finalists for the ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished writers were announced yesterday. I was not a finalist; hence my need for venting. It's not that I'm devastated about one contest. I'm just feeling things piling up on me in the area of writing--or not piling up, as the case may be.

Let me try to explain. I've mentioned here before that I've been submitting manuscripts, trying to get a novel published for 30 years now. I fully admit that for most of those years, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Somehow, in that clueless state, I had constant encouragement. When I entered contests, I often finaled. If I went to a conference, editors seemed to love my writing and requested full manuscripts. In fact, my frustration back then came from the vast quantity of near misses.

After about 25 years, I almost quit. I prayed and placed a fleece before God. If he wanted me to quit, I would. Just please show me whether to keep going. Out of the blue, he provided two well-known Christian authors to help me. Not through conferences or writers' groups or any effort on my part. They just happened to be friends of friends. They just appeared out of nowhere, and they provided so much encouragement, they kept me going. One recommended me to an agent, whom I signed with three years ago.

And since then, nothing.

I enter contests, and nothing happens. I get low scores. No one requests full manuscripts.

The hardest part of this writing dream, for me, hasn't been the waiting, or the hard work. It's the confusion. The frustration. Trying to figure out what in the world I should be doing differently.

Well-meaning people say, you need to work hard and study your craft. I heard one writer compare the process to becoming a doctor. Medical students have to study, learn, apprentice. True, but if I had started medical school 30 years ago, I would either have studied, done well, and been practicing medicine for many years now--or I would have flunked out and gone on to something else. I probably wouldn't pass an exam one day, then show up for class the next and be told that a different professor had looked at it and decided I failed.

I want this blog to be all about encouragement. But I decided when I started it that I wanted to be real, to make myself vulnerable. For me, I sometimes need to know that others are facing a dark hour--and that they make it through. So today, I vent! Tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be able to let you know how good God is, and what he has done to encourage me and keep me going. He always does.

(I always think that if God would let me not only publish, but become unbelievably successful after hanging in there for 30 years, that would be a tremendous encouragement to others! But I've discovered that God often has a different point of view from me.)

Tonight I will get back to work and try again. And tomorrow, I have a beautifully encouraging story from another writer to pass along. But for now, please feel free to vent here, if you like. Trust me, I know how hard this is. Leave a comment, or if you have a story about how you got past some particularly horrible rejection and would like to share it, send it to me. I'll be happy to give you a guest blog spot.

Thanks for letting me share with you.