What do you do when you find out your story submission – that you have spent hours lovingly writing, editing, rewriting – is “not right” for the editors?
You disappear from your 365-day project and take a week off to wallow in self-pity, that’s what.
I don’t think I’m a person who takes disappointments well. It’s probably why I don’t think I’ll make a good parent. When disappointments strike and the sinking, bitter feeling bites in deep inside my guts, my immediate reaction is to lash out at whoever is available and willing to take my shit. I’m just lucky enough to have a precious few people in my life who are willing to take my shit.
(but not literally. Even I am afraid of my own shit. But diarrhea stories have their places to go, and it’s not here)
I’m not sure if it’s just TV, but it sounds like people generally turn to food when they’re disappointed/sad. Just begin to load that ice-cream, right? But that’s not me.
See, in my family, food is love. Food is life. You don’t put food and negative things together, because that’s not how things work in this house. Food is for celebrations, for happy things. It’s why, when I get particularly good results on an exam, I allow myself to splurge a little on a really nice, greasy burger or a chicken chop somewhere. When it comes to important celebrations, steaks are usually involved. It has already been hardwired into my head.
I read somewhere, though, that a craving for food is a natural reaction to negative emotions. Which makes sense – we feel good when our hungers are satiated. It’s just classical conditioning at work. But what happens when, like me, you just can’t bring food into the equation of feeling better?
You do all sorts of stupid things.
(it’s just part of the human condition)
When I received the news that my steampunk story didn’t make the cut for the anthology, I was at work. And a bad day at work, at that. The news, like a OHKO to my self-esteem, just crumbled whatever fight I had left to face the day. When I was grilled for not checking a copy right, I just took it. When the scoldings began, I just took it in, lumping it together with my general sense of disappointment, making this giant metaphorical lump of bad things.
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show.
I suppose it was a good thing that I was at work. At least I had mundane things to do that kept my mind half-busy, or I would have sank into my bed and stayed there for the next 3 days. Being forced to swallow it in gave me time to get some perspective on getting rejected as well.
It was in this difficult time that the words of Mr. King (may he live ten thousand years) came to me:
…And if you’re not succeeding, you should know when to quit. When is that? I don’t know. It’s different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty.
I figured that as long as I have not hit sixty rejections, I’m still good to go.
What I’ve found is that the first 24 hours or so is the worst – I’m talking about soul-crushing, future-obliterating bitterness. Here’s some advice from one disappointed soul to the next, if it pleases you: don’t do anything stupid. Go have ice-cream. Steak, if you want to. Wallow in self-pity. Cry. But don’t, like I did, take it out on people close to you – if they’re still sticking around even as you’re radiating toxic energy into the air, you’ll want to keep them around.
After 24 hours, you’ll still feel bad, but it’ll be only half as bad as you felt the day before. More or less, you’ll see. In this time, take it easy. Do something fun. Watch TV. Play Skyrim. Dance naked in your room to bad rap music.
When your head is settled after the 72nd hour, chances are that you’ll see it’s not so bad. And with a more-or-less clear head, now you’re in a better place to make decisions concerning the future.
Myself, I’m sweeping off the dust that had settled on Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time, and I’m paying an old friend a visit. Who knows? We might even find new things together along the way.
Wish me luck.