On rejections, the Odyssey Workshop, and a firm ground to stand on.

In my previous post, I talked about overcoming my inner critic (it’s an ongoing process). Now, I’d like to talk about what gave voice to my critical self in the first place: rejections.

This is another very candid post. There are some things writers don’t talk much about. I wished this wasn’t so.

After much deliberation, I applied to this year’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Surprise, surprise! I didn’t get in. It was my first try. But it seems that my hopeful self is as persistent as my inner chastiser. I kept my hope to the end, so the rejection email hit me hard.

Rejections. They corner the hopeful child within us and give them a good beating. Yet, something positive surfaced after the bruises faded. I realized it might have not been the best thing for me to get in the Odyssey yet. Perhaps, going to a workshop where the focus is on critiquing the author’s work as much as on learning the craft might not have been as beneficial for a writer like me, whose feet are not yet firmly planted on the ground.

I may just be rationalizing, and, yet, there is some truth here, too.

I realized that I needed to first learn to walk without the external crutch of validation before attending such an intense critiquing experience. I had to be honest with myself. Part of my motivation to apply was because I wanted that validation. And the reason why I wanted that was because, as a creative, I have not found solid ground.

This rejection was a big one. I so wanted to attend and so wanted to learn. But not getting in the workshop started an internal shift that allowed me to truly understand where I stand, or, perhaps, not yet stand as a writer.

I searched the Internet to see what some established writers say about dealing with rejections. Something Neil Gaiman said stayed with me. To paraphrase: when a writer gets a rejection, there are two things that can happen. They give up and stop writing; or they use the rejection as fuel to create a story, which is so good that it would be impossible for it to be passed over.

That truly stuck with me. The particular story I’m working on now might not be it (though I’m giving it my best shot), but, one day, one of them will. So, while I was waiting to hear back from the Odyssey Workshop, and my anxiety about my chances to get in peaked, I started creating new material. I wrote the first draft of a novella, the first draft of a flash fiction piece, and another blog post. I learned that creating something new is a balm to the trauma of rejection.

By keeping on writing or, in my case, dictating, I’m searching for the firm ground that is my own; from whence my voice wells up. I’m still on that search. But at least, now, I know what I’m looking for. And I’m already walking towards it.

I once heard Traci Skuce say that a rejection is not a “no,” or a “not you,” but rather a “not yet,” a “not now,” or a “not this one.” Crystal Hunt, co-founder of the Creative Academy for Writers (a wonderful online community) said something similar.

I’d rather find my personal solid ground and the place of creativity that makes first and foremost me happy before finding success. It’s not that I’ve lost my gumption. I still have ambition; I still want to “get there.” But I want to do it on my own terms, saying what I want to say, not what I think will please others.

This is the solid ground, where I can plant my feet to weather critique and rejection.

Author: Adriana Kantcheva

I'm a Bulgarian writer of (often) speculative fiction, who lives in Germany.

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