In a world where social media filters out those moments in our lives where things go wrong, it is natural to want to lock ourselves away and not speak about it. To carry on as though all is well when in reality we are hurting and need to be vocal about it.
On Thursday, I was sat in my bedroom avidly refreshing my inbox and checking Twitter. I had applied to Penguin’s ‘Writenow’ programme, a fantastic opportunity targetted at giving writers from marginalised backgrounds a platform. As someone driven to improve how disabilities are represented in literature, I was incredibly excited over the dream of getting feedback from a real-in-the-flesh publisher about my YA novel Bitch on Wheels.
I GOT ON TO #WRITENOW
I WAS ACCEPTED!!
CAN’T BELIEVE I GOT THROUGH
A flurry of Tweets filled my newsfeed from fellow nervous writers who had also been fused to their mailbox in desperate anticipation for a response from Penguin. I was so pleased for them and with each new Tweet of success, I hoped and hoped and hoped that I would be writing my own loud, capslocked message to the world, announcing my step into the alien world of publishing.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. And as much as I still want to believe in my work, I don’t want to lie and say that this hurdle hasn’t knocked me. 1,700 people applied for 150 places, so I understandably won’t be able to get the feedback that I desperately want about why I wasn’t accepted.
I can’t look at my work at the moment, my inner critic is scanning over every phrase I have used, trying to ascertain what wasn’t working.
I know I’m not alone in this feeling. What novel isn’t incredibly close to its author’s heart? What author doesn’t put a piece of themselves and their life and their imagination onto the page? Who doesn’t spend hours rewriting and deleting and rewriting? Checking each adjective, and use of ellipsis, and paragraph? It can be a draining process that we put ourselves through in the hope that one day, we’ll see our books on a shelf somewhere.
I’m not the only person going through this. But that doesn’t make rejection hurt any less. Someone picked up the opening of my piece and decided it wasn’t for them.
But that’s ok.
It doesn’t feel ok right now, but something inside of me says that it is.
Because the fact is, I didn’t start writing Bitch on Wheels for someone else. I started writing it for me. That’s all you can do when you write. Be invested in it, no matter what others say.
The first time I workshopped my piece at uni, the general consensus from the group was that my character was too angry, too unapologetic, too unlikeable. It wasn’t until my lecturer told me that she liked my character’s attitude and the fact that she wasn’t a cliche character in a wheelchair – an all too common cypher of pity for expressing how hard life can be – that I was fuelled to get Ezzie’s story out there. I realised that I had something to say and I was going to say it.
J.K. Rowling said that as long as you are writing, you are achieving something. The story that you have lurking around in your head isn’t going anywhere unless you are putting it down on the page. I keep telling myself this, over and over again, to drown out the voice that wants me to give up.
It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot. (Rowling)
Ultimately, rejection is not going to stop me. I simply can’t let it hold me back. Especially in the writing world, for it is a brutal, competitive place.
And it shouldn’t stop you either.