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This week, I got an email from a literary journal. They were reaching out to let me know that they were not interested in publishing my story. The news probably would’ve hurt, but I honestly couldn’t remember which story they were talking about. I had to dig through my submissions spreadsheet to even remember which contest I’d entered. It turns out, I entered four months ago.
When I first started submitting my work for publication a few years ago, I spent weeks agonizing over rejections. My writing process was different back then. After laboring to produce a short story, I’d send it off to a handful of journals and wait. And wait. And wait. I wanted to be published so badly that it started getting in way of being a writer. When the rejections started rolling in several months later, I had nothing to show for my sleepless nights.
I learned that you can’t wait around for success, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to run a marathon, you have to get on the treadmill. If you want to be a writer, as I do, you have to put your fingers to the keyboard. Getting your big break takes most of us mortals years of numbing defeat. Like Sisyphus pushing his boulder forever uphill, we are crushed over and over by people who tell us “no.” If I’m going to survive rejection, I need to be constantly creating — reminding myself of why I love to do what I do.
So, when I finish a story, I leap on to the next one. Instead of waiting and worrying, I’m moving forward to the next project. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not in school, I only have part-time work and I have a long daily train commute. Never again will I have this much time to devote to my craft. When I finished a novella last fall, I headed straight into writing a play. Now that the play is done and submitted to a theatre company, I’m fleshing out the plot of a novel.
It’s easy to get burned out when you face rejection over and over. By diving into what I love instead of waiting, I’m happier and more productive. I’m more confident now than at any point in the past that someday I’m going to get that boulder to the top of the hill.
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Jonny Eberle is a writing machine in Tacoma, WA. Please comment below and/or follow him on Twitter. Thanks for reading!