If you’re an aspiring writer, this is a not-to-be-missed post about rejection and not giving up.
A few weeks ago, I read a blog post titled, ‘How To Cope with Rejection and Keep on Writing‘. The author of the post, Lauren Keegan, had sent her fifth completed manuscript out into the world, and the rejections had started trickling in.
There was so much I admired about Lauren’s post and as soon as I read it, I approached her and asked if I could post it here. Lauren went one step further, and rewrote it, especially for Writers in the Attic.
‘It’s not the first time I’ve experienced a series of rejections for my work, but instead of becoming easier, it’s actually becoming harder.’
Read on to learn more about Lauren’s tenacity and strength, and how not to give up.
Lauren Keegan is a writer and psychologist from the Wollondilly Shire in NSW. She works in a public mental health service in Sydney South-West, specialising in perinatal services for pregnant women or new mothers who have or are at risk of developing a mental illness.
Lauren has been blogging about books and writing topics for almost six years on her website (formerly known as The Australian Bookshelf Blog). Her eclectic taste in reading also reflects her varied writing experience: from freelance health writing and dabbling in young adult fantasy, now settling into psychological thrillers and crime fiction. This year she began working on her seventh manuscript and hopes to one day see her book stocked in a bookstore.
When she’s not at work, writing novels or running around after a busy toddler, she’s enjoying a cup of tea (and a mint slice or two) with a good book.
You can find Lauren at her website, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
The Anchor That is Writing
anchor. a means of stability (Macquarie Dictionary)
It’s something that I just keep on coming back to.
As a child, I wrote innocent stories about dogs and wildlife clubs and elves.
As an adolescent, I wrote angst-ridden journal entries, disclosing my innermost fears and desires to the blank pages of diaries protected with (rather flimsy!) locks and keys.
In my late teens, while studying psychology, I wrote essays and literature reviews, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I felt the pull to write a full-length novel. Almost a decade later, I have a young family, a psychology career, a dog and a vegetable garden, but it’s the writing that has been my constant companion through all the ups and downs. It’s been my outlet, both creatively and emotionally.
It’s my anchor. Writing has helped me process grief, it’s channeled my anger, it’s captured travel experiences and important moments in my life. Its stretched my creativity, its guided my wandering mind and challenged me on an intellectual, emotional and psychological level.
I’ve been writing seriously now for about eight or nine years. I have six complete manuscripts under my belt. The first two manuscripts I self-published under a pseudonym many years ago. I made all the rookie mistakes as I had no idea what I was doing. It was an invaluable experience, though, because I learnt more about the craft of writing and I accessed constructive feedback that offered insight into my strengths and weaknesses. This experience has helped me continue to grow as a writer.
Since that time, I’ve become connected with various writing communities both online and face to face, I’ve attended many workshops and conferences, and I’ve kept on writing.
A couple of months ago, I finally felt my fifth manuscript (a crime fiction novel) was ready to be released into the world. I prepared my book pitch and began to query agents in Australia and abroad. I was sending off a couple of queries each week and as the weeks went on the rejection emails started to filter through.
‘This is not the first time I’ve experienced rejection for my work. However, instead of the process becoming easier, it’s actually become a lot harder.’
This is not the first time I’ve experienced rejection for my work. However, instead of the process becoming easier, it’s actually become a lot harder. Years have passed since I’ve submitted my work in the hope of publication and I know that my writing has improved. I’ve further honed the craft, I’ve developed my voice and I’ve adjusted my writing processes and found a good rhythm that fits into my life. So now that I’m delivering the very best of my work out into the world and I’m still getting a “thank you, but this is not a good fit for me” response, it can be utterly gut-wrenching.
I know my writing isn’t perfect, but I’d like to have the opportunity to get it as close to perfection as it can be.
There are days I feel like giving up, there are days I feel angry at the book industry in Australia (agents who want published writers and publishers who want agented authors) and then there are days where stories are so alive in my mind that I couldn’t possibly tear myself away from the writing process. I can’t—and won’t—give up on my dream.
So even though I’ve felt disheartened, I haven’t been able to stop writing.
I’ve had a new idea—something completely different to what I’ve previously written—swirling around in my head for a couple of months now. I’ve thrown myself into this new project and it’s already softening the blow of rejections I’ve received … I know it’s not the end of the road for me. I have so many more stories to write.
So, I’ll keep on coming back to writing. Even though a writing career is an uncertainty, I’ll keep on doing the one thing that has provided me with a sense of stability throughout the course of my life.
The anchor, that is writing.
Writers in the Attic
This has been the 40th post in this wonderful series! I’m so indebted to all of you wonderful writers who have contributed. It’s been such a joy to read all of your essays, so thank you for your time and courage in putting your words out there.
For any writer who would like to write a personal essay for Writers in the Attic, please contact me here. The topic is fairly broad—anything to do with writing, your writing life or what writing means to you. I find 600-1000 words is a good length.
I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
You don’t have to be a writer, just love writing. I enjoy reading every essay I receive, so please don’t be frightened to take the plunge!
I found your post inspiring, Lauren. Sharing disappointments and rejections is not an easy thing to do, but the fact you’ve continued writing and improving, instead of giving up, is motivating for writers like me who are uncertain about their writing careers, yet hopeful of success. Best of luck with getting your stories published one day!
Thanks, Marie. None of us know if we’re going to get published or not, until the day we are. But we plod on regardless, and use every tiny, little win as motivation to keep going. 🙂
Thank you Marie. The process of putting your writing out there evokes a number of emotions, but my love of writing outweighs all those 🙂
Perseverance seems such a tired old world sometimes and yet to me it’s the essence. We might only be published posthumously but let’s face it, writing is the primary thing and being published secondary, although at times it can feel like publishing is our only goal. To me, it’s not. You can’t get published if you don’t write and the more you write, the better you get. Getting publishing may of some help in that it too encourages us to move on, and makes us feel good, but the best feel good comes in the writing itself. Your post is heartening for this reason, this emphasis on the writing and in not giving up. And for your honesty. Thanks Lauren.
Yep, the best feel good comes from the writing itself. A close second, I think, is when our work is read by others, and third would be when it strikes a chord with them! Like Lauren’s essay here has! No writer I know has had an easy ride to publication—perseverance is the key, as you say. Thanks, Lis. 🙂
Thank you for your support Elisabeth.
This is so powerful. I feel on the edge of tears reading it so it must have struck a nerve in me! Rejection does really hurt, and although over the years we get hardened to it in some ways, I agree that in other ways it can hurt more, because with time and honing the craft, the feeling of injustice is greater when we get knocked back.
Lauren your passion for writing is obviously so strong … I wish you ongoing writing joy and future publication!
I felt moved in the same way when I first read Lauren’s post, Fi. It’s a beautifully composed essay that captures the frustration of being an unpublished writer. If Lauren’s writing here is anything to go by, she will be published one day! Thanks for visiting. 🙂
Thank you Louise, that’s such lovely feedback and so very encouraging!
I’m so humbled to learn how my article has resonated with other writers, like you. Thank you so much for your support Fi 🙂
I can relate to much of this Lauren. Writing is an anchor for me too. And although I haven’t submitted to agents/publishers yet, I’ll be doing so in a few months time. I know the rejections are going to be many, but like you, writing is such a force for me and all I can and will do, is persist. Can’t wait to see your books in bookstores – one day it will happen! Keep writing x
Persist, persevere, keep going, don’t give up! (I’m sure you’re sick of hearing those phrases!) By the quality of your writing, I can see book deals for both of you in the near-ish future!
Thanks Jodi! What an experience you have ahead of you… I hope you find success quickly and if you don’t then don’t give up!
Thanks so much for sharing your personal writing journey, Lauren — or should that be personal writing “voyage”, to take the anchor analogy further. 🙂 Your persistence and tenacity in the face of rejection are what will ultimately make all the difference, and I look forward to seeing your books in shops in the not-too-distant future. Thanks to you, too, Louise, for providing this forum for readers and writers to connect with others who share their dreams and passions. Congratulations on the 40th post!
Thanks, Maureen, and I agree with you about seeing Lauren’s books on ‘sail’ in a shop one day. It *is* tenacity and perseverance that will get us to port, I mean, publication.
I read a quote by Graham Greene the other day and it sums up how I feel about writing, too: ‘I have no talent. It’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.’
Let us sail on! x
Thank you so much for your support Maureen and good luck in your own writing voyage 🙂
What a great post! Best of luck with your new story Lauren and with your tenacity I’m sure it won’t be long before you are picked up by a publisher. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to never give up.
I love Lauren’s ‘Never give up’ attitude. We writers need it tattooed on our foreheads, or at least on a sticky note by our computers. 😉
Thank you so much for your support Samantha!
A wonderful post! In the face of my many comments (read moaning) to my husband last night about how hard it is to keep writing with the hope that ‘one day’ it will be valued by ‘the world out there’, I feel that I too, must simply keep on writing. It is part of who I am. My answer to myself is to explore the many genres available while writing my novel. It is a learning curve. In many ways I am actually content with that. For now!
A post like this gives comfort to every aspiring writer. We’ve all been there, plugging away at our computers with no assurance that someone will like our book enough to publish it. It’s really, really hard to keep going, and I can only imagine it gets harder with subsequent books and repeated rejections.
Writing that first novel is a huge learning curve, as you say, and it’s a great time to explore genres and voices and styles and … everything! I’m sure the time will come when you’re ready to embark on the next step! Good luck, Susan, and thank you for reading. x
Thank you so much for your support and best of luck with your own writing journey. Don’t give up!
This was a really wonderful essay and I really identified with this Lauren. From another writer who is currently going through a lot of rejection, thank you so much for writing on this subject, even though it must have brought up a lot of sad feelings. I’m up to my third novel now (funnily enough a crime fiction novel too) and I have begun to get the customary ‘this industry is very subjective’ rejections emails. I’d love to get a real response one day, to find out if I’m anywhere near close…
I remember when I was querying my second novel I experienced an especially embarrassing rejection that was done face to face during a 10 minute pitch. I can still feel an echo of the pain I felt when I dissolved into a puddle (of blubbery goo) when I got back home. To make it worse I couldn’t write for a week after the pitch and I couldn’t even look at my second novel for months. But I eventually did pick myself off the ground (more like scrape?? LOL) and began to write my third novel, and it wasn’t long before I rediscovered my writing joie de vivre – I suppose it had never truly left.
All we can do is stay ever hopeful that one day we might get published. But no matter what happens, we will always have writing to fall back on.
I LOVE the end to your essay, when you wrote ‘the anchor, that is writing’. Exactly how I feel 🙂
Milly, this comment of yours is a poignant essay on rejection in itself! I can understand how much more humiliating face-to-face rejection would be—I would have dissolved in a puddle of tears, too. I was recently rejected for a writing residency after I’d been shortlisted and interviewed, and I felt it a lot more personally than I would have if I’d been rejected because of my written application only.
I’m glad you brought yourself back on board and soldiered on! We are brave warriors. Onwards and upwards we go! 🙂