Saturday, April 23, 2011

Transforming Negative Energy into Positive Ambition

You've heard it said:  "It's harder to get published these days than ever before".  These words provide some sort of comfort to us when we get a rejection, even though we know they're veneer words.  New writers are getting requests every day.  New writers are being offered contracts.  So, how do you move forward despite the negative feelings that are creeping in on you?

My suggestion:  transform that negative energy into positive ambition.

You've read the advice:  send out another query for every rejection.  It reminds you that if you believe in yourself, you're not going to give up.  But how does one actually go about putting that into practice?  How can you possibly take a potentially negative thing such as a rejection and make it a positive?

Ask yourself this:  have you grown in the process?  Did you learn something from the rejection?  Even a fast form rejection can tell you a lot.  Now, I'm not saying if you get one of these, or even a few, that something needs reworking, but if you notice this is all you're getting, something isn't working for you.  It may be your query letter isn't effective enough to hook the agent to want more.

Now, I'm not some expert on landing the perfect agent.  I'm still looking for mine.  But I can speak as a writer with experience in the querying process.  It’s exciting when an agent expresses an interest to read more.  It can be addictive checking your email, waiting to hear back.  But what if you’re not getting requests, and the responses slow down, and instead of form rejections, you get silence?

Sometimes the silence can be more deafening than the fast response, or the brief personal reply that gives you encouragement.  But remember this:  if they are an agent that normally replies to everything, the silence could be a good thing.

This matter was recently discussed on a popular agent blog.  It's easier to know what isn't going to work.  A "no" comes easy when the story isn't something they're looking for, or believe they can't market.  A "no" comes fast when they're not hooked by your query.  But the silence...it may actually mean a "maybe".

This agent compared it to clothes shopping.  I’ll elaborate.  For example, if you were looking for a formal dress to wear to a wedding, would you pick up a pair of jeans, and put it in your cart to think about?  Not likely, because it doesn't suit the occasion you’re shopping for.  But if you found a nice dress in royal blue that would suit your body shape perfectly - even if you didn't have that color in mind - you might put it in your cart for consideration.

Apparently, the same is true of a query that might interest the agent, but they’re just not quite sure if it’s going to be the right fit.

We've all heard the saying "silence is golden", and apparently sometimes it can be.  Of course, we want to hear.  Sometimes we're impatient.  But what are we in a hurry for?  Things happen when they're supposed to happen.

But maybe it’s not querying that has you feeling negative.  After all, there are many things that can cause discouragement.  Maybe the negative energy comes from people who you expect to support you, whether it be other writers, friends or family members.  It can be the result of a harsh critique, or maybe you've started a blog and haven't got regular commenters (BTW, these are to be highly cherished, and take time.  Also, I'd also like to mention and thank all my commenters and followers.).

So we circle back around to that question:
How can we transform negative energy into positive ambition?

Remind yourself of the goals you have.  Where do you want to be years down the road?  Is waiting a little longer now going to change what you want to accomplish?

Think about other people.  Your mother ever tell you this?  Mine did...and often.  If you think about others, you will have less time to sulk about things that don’t “go according to plan” in your life.  Your focus will be on ways to encourage them.  (Refer to a prior post on this blog “How to Support Our Fellow Writers” for an in-depth discussion of how we can do this effectively.)

Reach out to other writers.  As discussed before on this blog, become part of a writing community, whether it be writing forums, critique groups in your area, or on Twitter (I have found a wealth of talented writers there, and I’m continually discovering more).  Spread out.  Learn, and grow.  And foremost - keep writing.

Reflect on how far you’ve come already.  For example, when people read your work, and compliment it, keep note of these in a journal or document so you have these to reflect back on.  Then on the days when you believe your writing is “never gonna make it”, you have something to lift you up.  The same applies with polite agent rejections where they’ve included personalized encouragement.

Remind yourself that some things are outside of your control.  Accepting this will go a long way in your mental and emotional balance, not only as a writer, but as a human being.

It’s not personal.  The publishing world (despite what your alter ego may tell you) doesn’t revolve around you.  The publishing industry is a business.

What about you?  How have you transformed negative energy into positive ambition?