There are two things that unite all writers regardless of genre – crippling self-doubt and rejection. And it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, you WILL be rejected by someone. Perhaps by agents and publishers, followed by critics and then the ones who really matter – the readers. But what if rejection starts before then?
Writing is hard. It takes courage, resolve and a bucket of determination. I find inspiration in the fact that JK Rowling (how great is her quote) and Stephen King were knocked back numerous times before success came bounding up to them like an excitable puppy, knocking them sideways into their multi-million pound mansions. In all honesty I wouldn’t want that kind of success. The money would be nice but the intrusion? The celebrity stuff? No thanks. I’ve been around enough A-Listers in my time to know how well that turns out (hint: not very).
Still, I’ve always loved writing stories. Started when I was five and developed from there. Then I had an awful English teacher in my early teens. She didn’t like me. I was too quiet, too ‘Wallflower’ for her liking. She couldn’t stop herself doling out the ‘As’ to me but she knocked my confidence in other ways. Like when she chose her teaching group for GCSE English. Naturally she chose the crème de la crème of our year, the ones guaranteed to give her a dazzling array of ‘A*s’. I wasn’t one of them and that stung. Still hurts now. In the aftermath I faltered. I lost confidence and I ended up with a ‘B’, proving her right all along.
As I grew older I learnt to absorb rejection more graciously. Relationships came and went, jobs too, but I always kept my imagination in check because that was the one area I couldn’t handle criticism. When I finally plucked up the courage to send my first book out into the harsh, harsh world of publishing my worst fears were realized. The rejections came thick and fast. All but two.
It gave me hope.
I knuckled down and learnt my craft. I edited and edited until my eyes blurred. I discovered how to compose the perfect covering letter and synopsis. I was short-listed for writing competitions and received lovely, encouraging feedback from publishing reader panels and freelance editors alike. If anything it serves as a lesson in perseverance and a middle finger salute to that horrible English teacher all those years ago.
And what happened to her? Oh she’s still out there. Probably undermining a whole new generation of writers. I know it’s silly and puerile but I have a secret fantasy of one day sending her one of my books with a note inscribed, ‘From the pupil you forgot.’
Then I remember that I’m thirty-eight and far too mature for such things.
Or am I…?
(Header quote from JK Rowling.)