For nearly eight months now, I have been in a perpetual cycle of hope and disappointment as I try to find a literary agent. It's beginning to take its toll.
I've been using my usual methods for mood improvement but none of them are really taking. Even if I feel lifted up for a bit, it's not long before I'm low again. Maybe this is what an addict feels like. The lows are lower. You have to find a way up more often, but the old ways of getting up just don't last as long as they used to.
I'm still working out regularly so that's something. But when I walk on the trail that runs along Lakeshore Drive, I usually listen to my iPod on shuffle. Lately, as each song comes up, I think, "No. No. Nuh uh. Nope. Next. No. Next. Nooo! Next." Apparently, I hate my own musical taste.
I also go to Pure Barre, a routine I love for its intensity. By the end of it, I usually feel pretty damn powerful and ready to tackle the day. Last week, I spent most of the time during Pure Barre thinking about how torturous it is. I couldn't really focus on the exercises because I couldn't get out of my damn head. By the end, I just wanted to go home and sit on the sofa some more.
I know why I'm so tired. It's exhausting trying to constantly escape from one's own thoughts.
As I was writing the end of my book in December and January, I took a break from the hope/disappointment cycle of looking for a literary agent. I know I should get back to it, but the same woman who hates all the music on my iPod thinks this would be a colossal waste of time because it is only going to result in more rejections.
The woman in my head says, "You know that non-fiction books by non-celebrities aren't selling. Give up. Agents want to make money. Your book is never going to make money. Give up. Your book is 'small.' You are small. Give up. Plus, the publishing industry is a mess! The economy sucks. Give up. No one gives a shit about your stupid book.
It's very difficult to get her to shut up. She's the same one who tells me a lot of uglier, way more mean things on a regular basis. Sometimes I repeat these things to someone else like my mom or Tina or Erin, so I can hear what these ugly things sound like out loud. I feel guilty for doing this. I feel self-indulgent. Maybe because I know that what I want is to hear someone else say that all those things aren't true. And that seems needy. I don't like feeling needy.
The good news is that I'm not going to give up. But I need a new way to do this. I need a new way of thinking about it. This current cycle is not working for me.
Here's what works for me: Saying out loud what I want (an agent and a book deal and relief from worry). Saying out loud what I'm afraid of (small fear: that my book isn't good enough/big fear: that I don't deserve good things). Making jokes to lighten the weight of all those dreams and fears. Because we all know what I really want is a George Clooney make-out session. (See what I did there?)
So here's what I've come up with:
The Rejection Project
As I've been going through this process, I have heard many stories of famous rejections. Good friends forward them to me to remind me to keep going. People love these stories. There are about a zillion Web sites that tell the tales of famous writers receiving not just a "No, thank you" but receiving a "Oh, HELL no."
It is inspiring to hear that Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before she finally found an agent, sold her book, and made literary history with The Help (which, of course, has gone on to be a hugely successful movie). But it's also sort of mind-boggling. How did Kathryn Stockett keep going? It amazes me. I'm already sick of it and I haven't been rejected nearly that much. Yet. I haven't been rejected that much yet.
And that brings us to how I'm going to look at this in a new way: I'm going to see how many times I can get rejected.
That's right. Let's do this! I've decided to see just how high my rejection number can get. The higher, the better, dammit!
I'll keep track of it here on my blog. Look for an upcoming post documenting the rejections I've gotten so far. I will update it with the current number.
In the meantime, here are some fun literary rejection factoids:
William Golding was told that his manuscript was "an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull." That manuscript was The Lord of the Flies.
Major publishers such as Penguin and HarperCollins passed on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. A small London firm, Bloomsbury, accepted J.K. Rowling's first book only after the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter read the book and loved it.
Gone with the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers.
John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishers before a small publisher accepted it.
Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times.
Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin was rejected by several agents and publishers. After it was published, it won the 2005 Orange Prize.
Stephen King's Carrie was rejected 30 times. He threw it in the trash. His wife took it out. You know the rest.
The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times. One publisher wrote this rejection, “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
Confession: I like these rejection stories of the rich and famous, but it also makes me feel like I'm saying I'm freaking Margaret Mitchell or Stephen King over here. It reminds me of that scene from Look Who's Talking when John Travolta and Kirstie Alley go up in the plane and she starts naming all the movies about people killed in plane crashes. John Travolta says, "There's one big difference here. They were, like, rock legends and you're not."
I'm not a rock legend.
I'm really just someone trying to figure out how to fight the urge to give up.
The Rejection Project (The Official List)