On Writing & Rejection

Everyday

In 2016, I wrote a children’s book. Yes, it took me a year to write two Microsoft Word pages of rhyming children’s literature. What can I say? Writing is HARD.

Recently, I was encouraged to try to get it published. While I’ve published several industry articles and some poetry, I have never completed a manuscript and shopped it around. This was new territory for me. I painstakingly researched tips for writing query letters, made a color-coded Excel spreadsheet of literary agents who were most likely to consider my book, obsessed over the first draft of my query letter, and, finally, sent my baby out into the great unknown, possibly never to be heard from again. In fact, very probably.

You see, literary agents no longer send rejection letters. The ease of online submission means more people can send just about anything and literary agents end up with thousands of entries they have to dig through looking for something worthy enough to represent. There is simply no time for rejection emails. Instead, they post a time frame on their website and if you don’t hear back within that window, they aren’t interested.

Harsh? I don’t think so. There simply isn’t enough time to write every desperate author a rejection letter. And there could be so many reasons for rejecting a manuscript. Perhaps it sucks. Or it doesn’t have a market. Or it’s been done before. Or that agent already is representing three other young adult fantasy authors. (Note: I am not writing young adult fantasy.) At the end of the day, the agent just might not like it…

All that being said, this week marked the end of the time window for three of the literary agents I submitted to. It’s official. I’ve been rejected. Or rather, my work has been. Part of me thinks this is a great experience to have. Every writer should experience rejection. It’s part of the whole struggling-writer persona, right? I wouldn’t want this to be too easy – it could mess up my street cred.

But part of me is sad. And a bigger part of me wants to know why. Why was I rejected? Is the subject matter too niché? Is rhyming passé? Was the writing bad? Did they read the manuscript or did they stop at my query letter and move on?

The bad news is that I will never know. The good news is that I will never know and I can move on. And keep on trying.

Doing Things For Me

Everyday

If you have spent at least five minutes with me then you’ve heard me say “I’m a words of affirmation person.” If I haven’t said it to you yet, just give me another five minutes.

You see, I’m very big on personality assessments and understanding myself better so I can better understand others. So it was a revelation for me when I took the Love Languages test and discovered that the number one way I receive affirmation is through words. I crave sincere words of gratitude, praise, or affirmation. This doesn’t mean I beg for compliments. It just means that I am motivated and feel loved when people verbally affirm me.

This is great in a lot of ways because I am easily motivated by notes of encouragement and little things like being told by a teacher that they think I’m smart or the “chips” affirmation program at my office. But it is also a big reason that I am a Pathological People Pleaser.

People Pleasing is basically constructing your life around what others think. Although I am very independent and don’t really care what people think about my personality, I can care so much about what others think of my competence, intelligence, achievements, or niceness that I am often paralyzed by even the possibility of receiving negative words – or no words at all. But I want to change that. And I know where to start.

Last year, I had moderate success with my Daily Doodle. I got lots of compliments and “likes” and requests. So I began to shape my doodles around what I thought people would like to see. Obviously, the words of affirmation I received grew. That isn’t inherently bad. It’s a smart way to generate content. But now I’m working on my 2014 project: a 365-sentence story created by writing one sentence a day for a year. And you know what? It’s not always the most interesting to read. It can be slow for people who are used to constant information – or who like to read stories more than a sentence at a time. I’ve also discovered that a sentence isn’t as fun to look at as a doodle. Am I right?

So for the past five months I have struggled with contributing to a project with almost no words of affirmation accompanying it (Note: I am truly thankful for my friends who are following along!). But then I realized something important. Like this blog, I didn’t start this project to get attention or get famous or have people hang on my every word. I started it because I wanted to stretch myself as a writer. I wanted to see if I could create a full story with living characters while being shackled with intense time and creative restrictions. I wanted to test my patience.

I’ve decided to stop caring about what people think. My story could be the worst story in the history of stories, but as long as I complete it I will consider it a success. I’m doing it for me, and that’s all that should matter.

Here’s to the ordinary.

Uncategorized

I haven’t written in a while. I’d like to say it’s because I haven’t had time or that I’ve been so busy with this or with that. The truth is I haven’t written because I can’t think of anything to say. Or at least anything the world might want to read.

Yesterday was my fourth anniversary of being on WordPress, making it the fifth anniversary of me being a blogger. This blog began as an assignment for my Intro to Creative class. It was supposed to be a creativity blog and I had to make a certain number of posts during that semester. The posts could be about anything, so long as it was “creative.”

When the course was over, I kept the blog up and it eventually became the home of my portfolio, resume, and side projects. Suddenly, the online outlet for my thoughts, observations, and ideas, became a marketing tool for everything Haley. And the innocence behind my writing got lost along the way.

Now I feel this pressure to write stuff that people want to read, so I create content that I hope is engaging and interesting and relevant. But that’s not what writing should be about. I don’t want my focus to be getting internet famous or having a huge fan following or becoming a lifestyle blog that people check compulsively.

I want to make content that gives people an honest look into my world. I know that might only interest a handful of people and it might not go viral or show up in people’s news feeds, but I’d rather share my life as it is than create something artificial for others to enjoy. For my fifth anniversary I want to get back to why I started writing in the first place. And if that means I need to say nothing extraordinary for a while, then I’m okay with that.

So, here’s to the start of something ordinary. I’m ready for it.

Why Everyone Should Have A Pen-Pal

Lists

My first experience with a pen pal was in my elementary school years through a program set up by the amazing people at American Girl–don’t try looking it up, they discontinued the program several years later, probably because they had yet to discover the art of pen-pal background checks. Anyway, I was paired with a lovely girl whose name and hometown I do not remember, but at the time I was stoked to be connected to her. We exchanged letters for about a year and I dreamed of the day we’d be able to meet in a Disney Channel Original Movie-type way.

However, my perfect pen-pal dreams were shattered when I received a letter that explained that she no longer had time for a pen-pal. Her reason? I would have taken parents’ divorce, Olympic training, cramming for the Scripps’ National Spelling Bee…anything but the answer she gave me: “I have too much homework.” My little heart was crushed. Fine. Whatever. I acted like I didn’t care, when in reality I was devastated.

10 years later, one of my friends was heading off to Hawaii for college (poor guy) and asked me if I wanted to be his pen-pal. The bitter little girl inside me winced. Pen-pals? But don’t we have Facebook and emails for that sort of thing? I decided to give it a chance and maybe, just maybe, redeem my failed childhood experience. Best decision ever.

Why Everyone Should Have A Pen-Pal:

1. You get real mail.

In the pre-Internet world it was SO cool to get a letter in the mail. I remember waiting for the postman and praying that he would have something for me. It’s like finding an extra gift under the Christmas tree with your name on it.

2. Good things are worth waiting for.

Forget instant messaging, Facebook chat, and Twitter. Being a pen-pal takes a lot of patience. Not only do you have to wait for your letter to get to your pal, but then you have to wait for them to send a letter back. Even if the postman will brave wind, sleet, snow, and hail, it will still take a good week for you to get a response. But it’s a great surprise when it finally does come and you get to rip open the envelope and read what’s inside–a lot can happen in a week!

3. Exercise your brain.

This being the modern world, my friend and I are friends on Facebook and follow each other on Twitter–he even reads this blog! So I have to think twice as hard about what I’m going to write about since he basically knows everything I’ve been up to (well, everything worthy of posting to the inter-webs anyway). That always makes for some fun letter-writing because you’ve gotten all the surface-level stuff out of the way and you can get to what’s really bothering you, like world hunger or turtle necks.

4. One word: Stationary.

I absolutely love stationary. Oftentimes I’ll roam through stores like PaperSource and Papyrus just to look at all the beautiful cards. But, I’ve never had the need to purchase any. Until now, that is! It’s fun to spend a good 30 minutes trying to cram a whole weeks worth of information into a pretty card and slip that sucker in the mail. I like to think I’m sending them on a tropical vacation. Aloha!

So maybe my dreams of pen-pal perfection didn’t come true when I was ten (I hope whats-her-name regrets losing a potential long-distance BFF), but I’ve definitely come to respect the pen-pal process. It’s been a great exercise to write letters again and actually put pen to paper–instead of pixels to screen. I’d suggest that everyone find themselves a friend who lives in a different state (or even just a different city) and try it out. Comment on this and let me know how it goes! Or maybe just write me…