You’ve finished your manuscript, you’ve got a query, and now you’re pitching to agents and publishers. You’re so full of hope and excitement. You check your email, and there’s a response! Excitedly, you open it only to read, “thanks, but no thanks.” That “no” is hard to read, but you’re a creative. It’s part of the process, right? So, you square your shoulders, inhale and exhale, and move on to the next name on the list.
Except what about mourning the lost potential? It’s almost as if creatives are told to be devoid of emotion in this step when our entire process is about sharing emotion with others and leading your reader to that emotional well you want them to drink from.
Grieving the No
When I was in my acting world, I thought I couldn’t acknowledge the noes. It’s a part of life, after all. But sometimes it hurts! And it’s allowed to hurt. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we essentially tell ourselves and our peers to just suck it up. Just because something is a part of the life we’ve chosen doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Statistically speaking, we’re going to get many noes. It takes a lot of courage to submit our work to the world, but our work is not for everyone in every season. Some people consider a no as a step toward a yes. That’s a great thing to remember after the mourning period.
Mourning a no is not having a temper tantrum. It doesn’t make you spoiled, and it doesn’t make you dramatic. It makes you just like the person who didn’t get the job they hoped for. It makes you just like the person who got passed over for a raise. We wouldn’t tell those people to suck it up without sounding completely heartless, right?
When you get a no, try not to make any rash decisions in its wake. A no from an agent or a publisher does not mean you shouldn’t continue down this path. It doesn’t mean you’re a failed writer. When those intrusive thoughts try breaking down your walls, remember you’re doing this for a reason. Take a day or two, cry if you want (tears are cleansing!) or go for a walk, spend time with your friends, or watch a movie. Your outlook will change. You need to give yourself permission to take that quick break.
Much of writing is re-writing so take any notes from an agent or publisher with a clear head and decide if the industry professionals’ advice should be applied to your manuscript. Quite often, after mourning the No you can see how their suggestions actually make the book better. Don’t forget the greats who also were rejected before they found publishing success: Dr. Seuss, Agatha Christie, Louisa May Alcott, Sylvia Plath, and more. If they had stopped with their noes, the world of literature would not be the same. Remember your why; why you began in the first place and try again.