The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time to think about how to become a better person, how much weight to lose, how much alcohol to give up, what kind of parenting to engage in, what career changes to make, how to be a better friend, a better human, a better citizen of the planet.
It’s time to release what doesn’t serve us and embrace what will help us grow.
Yesterday, on the first business day of the new year, I received my first essay rejection of 2024. Best to get it out of the way early, huh? This one was particularly hard because it was a yes that became a no. And the no wasn’t about my writing, it was about the subject matter. There are so many damn ways to get a no in this writing life.
So, I began the new year with rejection and tears and that inevitable question of is it time to throw in the towel? I always feel that way after every rejection. They are challenging for me (and for most of us, I’m sure), and I tend to take them way too personally. When it was early in my writing career, and we still queried by mail (sheesh, am I THAT old?), I hung all my rejection letters on what was affectionately known as my Wall of Rejection. It was a motivator for me then, an opportunity to look at that wall and think, well, THAT one is out of the way.
Today, I just maintain a spreadsheet with far more red Xs than green highlights. But that’s the way this writing world works.
My former brother-in-law once asked me, “How many nos does it take to get to a yes? Is it 100? Is it 500? Good. Then you only have 499 more to go.”
I try to keep those words close at heart when the rejections roll in. I try to remind myself that every no is one step closer to a yes, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
After my no came yesterday, I posted my sadness on social media. I needed some reassurance that I was, indeed, a good and dedicated and worthy writer who was in this for the long haul. That there were people out there who are still interested in my words. And my readers and friends delivered. They lifted me up, fortified me, and sent their encouragement to keep going, to keep moving forward.
My sweet friend, Rachel (who also happens to be a NYT bestselling author), said this to me after reading my rejected essay:
“Reading now… am sucked in right away… this section here… stunning. I don’t know very many people who can write like that. I feel it, smell it, taste it. This is as good as any book I have read over the years, and I have read a LOT of beautifully written books!!! YOU HAVE GOT TO KEEP PITCHING THIS. IT IS SO GOOD.”
I’ve been trying to think of the word I want to focus on in 2024, and it came to me yesterday via Rachel.
It’s movement. My body needs it, and my writing career needs it, too. Forward movement, continuous movement, disciplined movement. Movement on the pickleball court and in the pool makes for a stronger back and leaner muscles. Movement in submitting, revising, and submitting again means I’m writing every day, all the time. Movement on my stagnant memoir means I’m that much closer to finding my agent.
Always forward, ever forward.
Do you have a word or intention for 2024? I’d love to hear what it is!
P.S. I’m also participating in Dry January. Not because I have any grand intentions of becoming sober, but because my liver just needs a break. And who knows… maybe I’ll even drop a few red wine pounds in the process.