Querying. Ah, querying. It’s a necessary part of a writer’s life when they’re seeking traditional publication. It’s that exciting next step that happens when your novel is DONE. You’re contacting agents–lovely people–and opening the door to the opportunity of making that magical artistic connection with someone who will further your work in so many ways. So I can’t be dissing on it too much, despite the lurid title of this post.
But I gotta tell you, I haven’t been as blue as I was the other night in a loooooong time. Here’s what’s going on: I just started sending out batches of queries for my new project. The first week, even as the first rejections flowed into my inbox, I was mostly like, “lalalala, oh yeah, this is what I expected, look at me, I’M TOTALLY FINE, I’ve done this before and this time it’s not affecting me AT ALL, let’s just HAVE A GOOD TIME lalalala.”
And then, on day #8, a rejection came in and just walloped all the la-la-la’s right out of me. Maybe it was the couple specific things the rejecting agent mentioned that hurt. Maybe it was because I let my first feelings of insecurity have a voice, and what they said was oh my word my novel is CRAP AFTER ALL. No one wants it and no one is ever going to want it. Or maybe it was just time for the happy-charade to be burned away to reveal the truth: that rejection hurts. Even when you expect it, you can’t fully armor yourself against it. We’re humans for goodness’ sake, not killing robot cyborgs.
So. Here I am. No longer in Happy Queryland. It turns out that querying sucks and was always going to suck.
But instead of going on some kind of depressive rant (okay maybe I did that a teensy bit already but I’m totally moving on), I’m going to use this opportunity to remind myself of a few things to celebrate.
- I wrote and finished a novel. YES I DID. After a huge episode of writer’s block and a year of creatively fallow ground, I kept at it and finally did it. THIS IS AWESOME.
- I have put my work out there. Yes, I am getting rejected, but I am strong enough to take it. It hurts, but it’s not killing me. THIS IS AWESOME.
- I love my story. I wrote something I would proud to put my name on. THIS IS AWESOME.
- I know that the writing in this manuscript is so much stronger than my first manuscript four years ago. I have progressed as an artist and as a writer. The evidence is in these pages. And my progress doesn’t stop here–my next manuscript will be even better. I can keep growing and improving–the rest of my life! THIS IS AWESOME.
I have to admit, upon further reflection, that part of feeling blue and depressed the other night wasn’t the querying and rejection. Honestly, compiled with that was a feeling of listlessness and lack of purpose. There was a moment when it hit me, once the kids were in bed and I found myself in the mood to write, that I had no project to work on. *cue horror music and creepy shot of steep stairway leading to dark attic*
Yes, for a writer, having nothing to sink their teeth into can be scarier than a chainsaw-wielding maniac in the attic.
And realistically, I won’t have that for awhile (the project) (the chainsaw-wielding maniac is more in the ‘never’ category) (one hopes). Because I have to make something new from scratch. Unlike a lot of the rewriting and revising work I’ve been doing this year, now when I sit down at the laptop, what’s looking at me is a blank document. I don’t have characters I’m comfortable with, or a world I’ve built, or the basic outline of a plot waiting for me. I’m at square one. Make that square zero.
Gosh, Square Zero is uncomfortable.
At best, it’s like climbing the sliding side of a mountain. You try to make some progress but slip back down. You’re not even sure what mountain you’re climbing, or why, or if you’ll reach the top or if you should find a different mountain.
With this new Square Zero stuff, I’m also trying to get some positive perspective hammered into my thick skull:
- Yes, there’s a lot of uncertainty when you’re in between projects. So ENJOY it. Experiment. Get that one crazy idea out of the box and flirt with it for a night or two. Is it annoying you? You have permission to toss it aside. This could be fun, if you let it.
- Focus on recharging, artistically speaking. I’ve been so focused on writing this year, I’ve only read ONE BOOK. ALL YEAR. This amounts to criminal. I need to max out my library allowance and read, read, read. I need to watch some movies. See what shows are out there. And through it all, open myself to inspiration.
- I need to remember that my worth is not measured by what I’ve written. As an accomplishment-driven person, these periods of what feels like “non-accomplishment” are especially hard. What a great opportunity to ground myself again in what really defines me–which is never my output.
Are any of you in the query trenches? Any of you at Square Zero creatively? I’d love to hear about where you’re at and what you’re learning.