Earlier on this week, I wrote about the importance of having a tribe when you do something crazy like, ah…I don’t know…write. I wasn’t planning on writing anymore about it, but something happened this week to a friend of mine that just backs this up and I thought I’d share. It’s important to share. Without sharing, it’s even easier to feel like you’re even more alone, and when bad or difficult things happen,
when doors you really wanted to be open suddenly close, it makes it even harder to pick your splattered carcass off the floor, reform into a 3D emotionful being, and keep on keeping on (which, by the way, is the only way to succeed at this writing thing – but that’s another blog.)
What happened to my friend is something that’s happened to me multiple times, has happened to other writing friends of mine and is bound to happen to all of us again. In fact, despite the fact that I have been published, that doesn’t make me suddenly immune to all those ups and downs that go with writing – in many ways, it’s even worse now, because there is more to try to hold onto and the slope is just as slippery as ever.
Anyway, my friend’s latest work was rejected. It’s a brilliant historical YA novel set in Tasmania and has had much interest (as my writing group knew it would from the first moment she brought it to the group for critique, because she has an engaging, unique voice, fantastic characters, has done brilliant research and weaves it in in the best way so that you feel immersed in the time without feeling like you’re having a history lesson and the story is full of emotion and conflict.) However, it was rejected right at the last step of the process.
The editor loved it, there were other people at the publishing house who also loved it, but it was still a no because marketing just doesn’t have confidence in YA historical at the moment from a new author.
An absolute, total bummer. The worst thing ever, to know you’re so close and yet still so far. Particularly as there is nothing she can do about that. It wasn’t like they were saying her writing was bad – they loved it – it’s just that they don’t think there’s a market for it at the moment, so it was a ‘no’. A horrible, unfair, totally devastating no. A no that felt like a bullet to the heart. I felt so terribly bad for her, so desperately wanting to make it better in some way, even though I knew the only thing that could truly make it better, was for the answer to have been ‘yes’. Which, I can’t do anything about.
But just like when I got bad news in the past and shared it, when she wrote that awful email to us, her writing group, her tribe, we rallied around her, pointing out the positives of the letter she was sent and the phone conversation she’d had. There were many emails that day and in the days following and the emails went from desperately depressed and hopelessly disappointed, to, if not happy, encouraged and willing not to throw everything in, but try again in the near future, while talking options, plans, possibilities.
I know from personal experience how important this process is. When I first started writing, I tried to do it by myself. I honestly thought it was best. I wrote, I put my work out there, I got rejected and so I put that manuscript aside and wrote another one, starting the process all over again. I might still be doing that if not for a lucky meeting with
Anne Gracie who explained the rejection letters I had been getting weren’t just rejection letters, but were asking me to work on certain things in the manuscripts and try again (I never saw them in this way, and just thought my manuscript had been rejected because it was crap and put it aside.) She encouraged me to join RWA, to get a critique partner, to sign up to a writing group, to go in contests, to improve, to network, to understand what I was doing on so many levels that I couldn’t possibly do by myself.
Thankfully I was wearing my sensible pants that day and didn’t just listen to her advice, but actually followed through, because, not only did I learn things about my writing that I really needed to learn so that I could get better and get published, it led me to my tribe. Or tribes. The people who have lifted me up when I’ve been down, who’ve encouraged when I needed it the most, who kicked my arse when I needed it, who helped me see the strengths and faults in my work, who celebrated with me through the good news and even helped throw me a Release Day Party when I wouldn’t have thrown one myself. I couldn’t do without them. And this week, I know my friend couldn’t have done without us too.
I’m sure she, just like me, has wonderful, loving, supportive loved ones, family and friends, who would have been there to help buck her up in her time of need, but there is something a little different getting that same support and caring from others who share in your madness. Your tribe understands the exact nature of those highs and lows and they tend to know the exact right thing to say to help you out of the deepest crevice. I know my friend will make it out of her crevice and will strive onward and upward and will eventually reach her goals because I see her and her work in the way she can’t at the moment – as brilliant and true and worthy. And as one of her tribe, it is my job to make sure that one day soon, she not only remembers that, but she sees it and believes it too.
A writer needs a tribe. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has got one and they’ll tell you the same because it’s true.