Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Advice for handling the letdowns

A few weeks ago the local newspaper ran a feature describing do’s and don’ts for dealing with the breakup of a relationship. It struck me that some of these (or variations thereof) could also apply when we get a rejection, bad review, or painful contest critique. Here are Myra’s suggestions for handling the inevitable writing disappointments:
  • Do not, under any circumstances, make any life-altering decisions (such as throwing out your computer or burning all your manuscripts) until at least two weeks have passed. If you still don’t have any perspective, wait another two weeks. Or a month. Or a year.
  • Stay away from sharp objects. (Ask my kids about this one if you dare!)
  • Don’t post a YouTube video of you dissing the editor/agent/judge/reviewer.
  • Don’t send a hate e-mail or text message. Even anonymously. Tech experts have ways of finding out who you are. Just watch CSI or NCIS if you don’t believe me.
  • If you must blog about your disappointment, thoroughly disguise the details and certainly don’t name names! The Internet has a long, l-o-o-o-o-n-g memory. Better yet, avoid any kind of Internet-related commentary. Eat chocolate until the urge passes.
  • Don’t badmouth editors, agents, or fellow writers to your writers group. You will be the one who ends up looking like Miss (or Mr.) Whiny-Pants.
  • Vent only to someone you are absolutely 310% positive would never, ever reveal a confidence, even if tortured with chocolate deprivation or offered a three-book contract if only she will reveal your secrets. And then think twice about it.
  • Mailing anthrax will get you 20 years to life. Mailing chocolate makes friends. Unless it melts.
  • Don’t try to change your detractor’s mind with pleading, wheedling, begging, or threats. See chocolate advice above.
  • If you run into this person at a writers conference, be polite, friendly, and professional. Your reputation is on the line at this point, not theirs. You never know who may be watching. Like maybe the agent who was seconds away from signing you.
  • Send a gracious thank-you note, no matter how badly you’re hurting. As the Bible says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Prov. 25:21-22). If not with a six-figure contract offer, at least with enough $$ to buy yourself a grande mocha latte.
Okay, readers, anything you’d add to the list? Any blunders you’d like to confess? Any public apologies you feel compelled to make, anonymously or otherwise?

While you’re thinking about it, I’ll pass around this mega-sized box of Godiva chocolates I just opened. Help yourselves . . . especially anyone I may have inadvertently whined about at some point in my career.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra has a funny side.

And it's freakin' hysterical!

Myra-cakes, this was wonderful and a lesson that some of us (SIGH) learn the hard way.

Where were you with this post when I was a newbie five years ago????

Drat and double drat, I could have used your wisdom, girl.

Great post.

And pass those chocolates. I don't care how early it is, it's never too early or late for chocolate. Ever. Thank God there are no scales on Unpubbed Island. Seriously.


Tina M. Russo said...

May I please have a white chocolate piece of Godiva?

I have a 24 hour rule on the let downs. Whine for 24 then wipe your nose and move on.

Great post, Myra.

Lisa Jordan said...

Ruthy gave me the best letdown advice a few years ago--"Cry, stamp your feet, and whine for a day. After that you're done. Pull up your big girl panties and get back to work."

Great post, Myra.

Ausjenny said...

sounds like some good advice, I would say move the axe somewhere you cant find it!
after yesterday picturing someones head on the block I would hide the axe (but boy did it feel good).
Oh and I have a packet of chewy caramel TimTams to share (these are very yummy and covered in chocolate)

Ann said...

I'd like to try some of those Tim Tams. Thanks, Jen! Would you like coffee? I just made a fresh pot.

O wise Seekers, I was Miss Whiny Butt a couple of years ago about my Genesis contest results. In public. It was bad. I still cringe when I think of it.

And I can't say it was from a recent head injury b/c my last horse-related concussion was in 1999.

I have learned. Now I bite the inside of my cheek and send thank you notes.

Kimberli said...

Ruthy's right. Some of us learn the hard way.

Can I have an Amen?

Seriously (I can be serious at times, honest) I haven't intentionally dissed anyone, but if the bemoaning of my setbacks this year has come across that day, please accept my apologies.

Oh I love this post, Myra. Thanks!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Fun post, Myra!

The first time I got a really bad score and (what I thought were) unfair comments on a contest entry, I sent the judge a thank-you note wherein I tried to subtly suggest that they were wrong. Really not a good thing to do. The category coordinator was not happy with me. (Yes, they read the thank you notes, too.) SO LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE! If you can't say thank you without gritting your teeth and venting, don't send the thank you note!

Seriously, I've gotten worse comments and score since then, and it is tempting to want to set that judge straight, especially when they are SO WRONG! But I didn't do it. There were a few that I just didn't send the thank you note to. I couldn't do it in all honesty. So I didn't.

But the vast majority of contest judges' comments have been wonderful and helpful, and I am very thankful to them for judging. Judging can be a frustrating experience, and it is definitely a sacrifice of time. So if at all possible, I try to send thank you notes. But this spring I entered so many contests, I lost track and didn't send thank you notes to all of them. Cringe. So if you judged a contest this year, just know that I appreciate you! Even if you hated my book!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Myra! This is great advice. :)

No confessions here. I'm one of those 310% people. (Probably just paranoid.) :)

I guess the thing that works best for me is to remember it's not personal. It's a business and you have to keep moving ahead.


Angela Guillaume said...

This was a cool and funny blog! Thanks for the smile. I also have another rule: for each rejection I happen to receive I send out another query (or two). One out of the window, another in the door...


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Myra, needed that laugh this morning! Cute post.

I relate this "handling rejection" wisdom to the first 1-star review I got on Amazon that started with the line, "This is simply a horrible book." I was crushed, I cried, thought I missed God, then cried some more. Wallowed for about a day, then started praying my guts out for the broad, that God would bless the socks off of her. I'm thinking that with all the prayers I said for her (they still count through gritted teeth), she probably won the lottery by now ...


Mary Connealy said...

Ann, I will say this, if you through a fit in public, keep in mind that feeling awful about it later is the mark of a decent person.
I you didn't feel bad about it, that might be worrisome but decent people spent plenty of time kicking themselves, so that makes you one.

Find comfort in that if you can.

And also most of the people who witnessed the tantrum are too busy regretting their OWN public mistakes to remember yours.

Mary Connealy said...

ANGELA! Pro-active! That's the spirit. Stay out there, keep pitching.

And KEEP WRITING. No matter what you're doing to increase your skills, pitch and submit and enter, behind all that you need to be turning out pages on the next manuscript.

Because you keep getting better with practice and when you finally sell a book, you'll have a scad of them on your computer that they will also buy. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Good morning, all! So glad to see you started in on the chocolates already. And Tim Tams? That's a new one for me. I'd love a taste!

Yes, Ruthy, I can be funny upon occasion. Don't tell Mary. She might get jealous and whine.

Tina, I love your 24-hour rule. However it's usually not quite long enough for me. I confess, I am a wallower.

But Missy and Angela are right on target. The only really effective way to move on is to (1) remember this is a business, not a mutual admiration society, and (2) get cracking on the next ms. and send it out!

Peter said...

That was pretty funny! Oh, and feel free to ask me (being the eldest of the "daughters" mentioned) about the knives incident! Lol! No, noone got hurt!
Funny that you are all surprised by Mom's funny side! She can be quite funny. . .and weird. . .sorry, Mom! Had to say it! Where was this list 20 years ago? I think Ju and I would've maybe posted it somewhere in large letters!!
LOVE you and just teasing you in public!!!

Myra Johnson said...

No, my daughter's name is not "Peter." Guess she is using her hubby's Blogger identity.

And no children or husbands were harmed during the rejection reaction she refers to, BTW.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, naming a girl Peter would have been A-Okay with us. Really. I mean St. Peter is such a totally cool dude. He had a temper, he feared, he even cowered on occasion but when push came to shove, he manned up and did what needed to be done...

For all that he got a church built on him. Poor guy! What's up with that?????

Oh, I see. It was done 'figuratively'...


And I LOVE 'seeing' Seeker kids stop by. I pay mine to assume new and varying identities so that people will think I'm popular when I post. And smart.

But I don't pay them quite enough to pull off that last, LOL!

Lisa, hello my young friend! And yeah, I distinctly remember the pull up your panties remark... That's a soccer coach for you. We nod, smile, offer a look of commiseration, and if you don't get your sorry butt back on the field, we put someone else in your place. Literally.

But not with Lisa, whose heart and soul are kindred spirits with me. Poor thing.


I'm "Amening" Kimberli. My big mouth is a downfall, but it also makes it easy to address a crowd, classroom or group, because I know they've all been there, done that.

Unless they're mute.

And Angela, you've got it going on. Absolutely. I remember having to sit home for an RWA conference and instead of whining (well, okay AFTER whining to myself) I sent out agent proposals. Five months later that paid off with a phone call from an agent who signed me, and that was a valuable learning experience. Work hard, stay focused, overlook the junk piles along the way, shrug off the negatives and go right back to working hard.

Okay, enough lectures! We're having a "country tea party" today at Ruthy's, and all the little munchkins are dressing in their finest dress-up closet attire to attend. We're serving lemon tea, home-made pizza, tiny sandwiches, peaches, cookies and then a delightful dark chocolate birthday cake topped with whipped cream frosting.

Country teas take place on blankets spread atop soft, green grass in shaded spots of the lawn, surrounded by flowers.

There will be boys in attendance, so dress accordingly.



Jessica said...

What a cute post, Myra! It does hurt getting rejections.
I just got one in the mail and you're not going to believe what flashed through my head.
No, nothing violent. lol
I worried that maybe no one would ever like it (even though I've only queried about ten agents).
Then the Name JulieLessman flashed through my head.
Hehehe, I remembered all her rejections and felt bouyed.
She's published. There must be hope.
So I stuck it in my file and moved on.
Very nice advice! Thanks Myra

tina pinson said...

Okay, I am so totally miffed now, I'm feeling horribly rejected, because you only sent a picture of chocolate . . . but I am going to take heed of the lesson and wait before I explode with a verbal diatribe. . . LOL

Myra Johnson said...

Someday ... LOOOOOONG after I finally get my first contract ... I might reveal the staggering number of rejections I've collected over 25 years. Then, Jessica, when you think of Julie Lessman you will laugh at how little she has suffered for her art.

Myra Johnson said...

Tina, Tina, have you not learned that cyber-chocolate is better than no chocolate at all? And it has zero calories and doesn't melt gooey stuff all over your fingers while you're typing.

Missy Tippens said...

"Peter", I've seen bursts of your mom's humor through the last few years, and I always get a good laugh. Such dry wit! :)

Off to try a new recipe tonight. Lindi told me about it.She said it was waaay yummy. Check out Rachel Ray on the Food Network. It's for Sloppy Buffalo Joes. I can't wait to try it!


Janet Dean said...

Myra, a delightful post! Wit coated wisdom is easier to swallow. Thanks!

Ruthy, a country tea sounds delightful. Your munchkins look adorable. Glad I got here before the ants arrived. Pass a slice of that cake, please, while I pull off my gloves.


Jessica said...

You popped a hole in my hope balloon.


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great advice!

Can't think of a single thing to add.