Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How a Painful Rejection Fueled my Five-Year Plan

In the business of dreams, it's easy -- even practical -- to remain detached on some level. Not detached from our work or the love of our art, but detached from its reception.

If an agent doesn't like my book, maybe another will. 
If an editor rejects this project, maybe the next will come across his or her desk at the right time. 
So what if I don't win this contest? At least I finaled. 

That all changed for me around the holidays when my agent told me one of my books was going to editorial board at a certain publishing house I'd pitched to at a conference. At first, I kept my cool and stayed busy working on other projects. 

But then, a tiny pinprick of hope permeated the practicality. I started thinking about what made me want to pitch to that house in the first place and then wondered how my other planned books in that series would appeal to their line and what it would be like cross-promoting with and being co-workers some of their higher-profile authors. Who was I? Where was that detached level of chill when I needed it?

I would need it sooner than later.

The rejection came, and it hurt. My manuscripts have been rejected more times than I can count on two hands, but this was different.

It didn't feel like the end. It didn't feel like I'd spent my life's savings building a house on this shoreline only to have it washed away. It just set this dull ache loose.

I gave myself the day to mourn. My husband took us to dinner and brought home a chocolate ice cream cone for me. And then it was back to work -- not to distract me, but because I had a new lease on my creative work and the pursuit of publication. 

It was okay to want something, I found out, but it wasn't the end-all, be-all when I didn't get it.

It helped me take an honest look at what I wanted for my writing, to set some concrete goals beyond writing X number of books a year and pitching them to publishers. And, being the list-maker that I am, soon I had a five-year plan. My first ever that didn't sound like "Graduate college and see what happens from there."

I will say that, in publishing, I think it's healthiest to set goals that are based on productivity, of course, or ideals that are more conditional or "if/then" based. It's important to be flexible, teachable, resilient, and willing to adapt to a market that is constantly evolving while maintaining your unique artistic integrity. 

But I learned that it's okay to want something, to dream of it, to envision it -- as long as you are willing to get right back up again, learn something from it, and keep going if it doesn't turn out exactly as planned. If this isn't the book, write another. Nobody and nothing can take that away except for you.

Dreaming tangibly helps you set realistic goals you need to get there, wherever there happens to be. It alleviates your temptation to settle. And (so I'm told) it makes it that much sweeter when you're finally signing on the dotted line.


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a two-time Genesis Award winner, and the runner-up in the 2015 Lone Star Contest's Inspirational category. 
Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:
Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Christen E. Krumm said...

All the hugs! And you inspired me to start thinking about my own 5-year plan!


Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Christen E. - Thank you! You know how much I love a good plan <3

Laura C. Brandenburg said...

Beautiful post!! Proud of you for pressing on and holding on to your dreams. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

I totally get where you're coming from, Laurie. Some rejections have set me back, and others have forced me to take a long hard look at what I want.

Cheering for you!!!


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Lori, thanks for your honesty here. I'm so sorry for the rejection, but I'm glad it fueled your passion to create your five-year plan. Some rejections are hard to come to terms with.

I've been trying to think of what mine should look like. If you're willing, I'd love to hear some more about your five-year plan. :)

Teresa Tysinger said...

Laurie, I so appreciate this post. Rejection is a cruel, yet necessary part of this process of writing for publication. If our dreams are not rooted deep, how would we survive? Thank you for being open and honest about your journey. It helps those of us coming up through the ranks to know we're not alone.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ Laura - Thank you, ma'am! I think you kind of inspired this post! <3

@ Jill - You encouraging lady! Thank you, sweetness!

@ Jeanne - I decided not to share mine in the post because 1) it might tempt people to compare and 2) it's kind of a weird flow chart at this point LOL! If you want to, you can message me and I will explain!

@ Teresa - I love that description of rejection. So accurate. That's so encouraging to hear because my heart behind these posts is to share what I know so it will encourage/inspire even one person! And definitely so people will know they aren't alone!

Unknown said...

I love reading about the failures, mistakes, and rejections that ultimately led others to success. We all understand that no level of accomplishment can come without a few dozens missteps beforehand. Even knowing that, sometimes my own rejections sting, but I can at least shake it off and keep going. Thanks for the inspiration.

Joseph Devon said...

It's always nice to see that other authors have to deal with fear as well. It's too easy to believe that other authors magically never doubt themselves. Great read!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Caitlin - "no level of accomplishment can come without a few dozens missteps beforehand..." <-- so true! Thanks for commenting!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Joseph - I think anyone who says they never doubt themselves is 1) lying or 2) doing it wrong :)