Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What I learned from over 100 rejections

I’m Renee Ryan and I want to share with you what I learned from over 100 Rejections. You see, when it comes to publishing a romance, I know a thing or two about rejection. In fact, in my ten years of pursuing publication, I’ve received every kind of rejection known to the writing community—the good kind, the bad kind, the almost-there kind, the “Dear, Loser” kind and the “Dear Author, You Don’t Rate a Salutation” kind.

I received these wonderful letters not only before I sold my first book, but after as well. I sold my first manuscript in 2001. Unfortunately, EXTREME MEASURES, a 2002 Leisure Books release, was my first and last book with that particular publisher. For five years after that initial success, I couldn’t buy attention for any of my manuscripts, and there were many! No editor was interested. No agent wanted to represent me. Bottom line, I had sold a book only to fizzle out as a one-book-wonder.

I knew it was time to rethink my career path. The rejection letters were pouring in and I couldn’t seem to stop the onslaught. I realized I had to stop chasing the all-elusive second sale and decide what I wanted to write and why I wanted to write it.

Long story short, I decided to reconcile my faith with my writing. I focused on my God, my family and my craft as a writer (in that order). As I type this I am finishing my sixth contracted manuscript for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired line. I can safely say the dry spell is over. At least for now, but I know my success could vanish at anytime. There isn’t a single day that I take my return to publishing for granted. I know how quickly it can fade.

So, what did I learn from all the rejection letters? I learned to focus on what I could control and leave the rest to the Lord. I started taking positive action steps that I could control. Here are my top ten steps for “staying the course” in the face of rejection (in any endeavor).

STEP ONE: Persist. Sounds simple, I know. But the only way to guarantee success is to keep at your pursuit. The only way to guarantee failure is to stop going for the goal. Never, never give up. Success could be just around the corner. It may take seven, ten, twenty years and 100 or more rejections, but so what? It’s all about the journey anyway. Trust me on this.

STEP TWO: Focus on what you’re doing right, not what you’re doing wrong. Do not go to the negative. Ever. Stay positive. Write down every success you have, no matter how small. Every step counts.

STEP THREE: Redefine rejection. Try thinking of it as information from the source. You just received important feedback from a professional. Besides, that rejection is just one person’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Reframe your thinking right now!

STEP FOUR: Compare yourself only to yourself. If you try to keep up with your friends and/or your rivals you will only make yourself crazy. Let’s face it; there will always be someone more successful than you. Their success is not an indicator of your potential. Focus on your career and your success. Period.

STEP FIVE: Learn from other creative pursuits. You can learn a lot about your craft by studying others, especially the masters. And don’t keep within your own field. The broader you study, the stronger your skills will become.

STEP SIX: Turn off the internal editor. Make this your new motto: DON’T GET IT right GET IT done. You can always go back and fix. You can’t work on something not yet created.

STEP SEVEN: Live your life. Turn off that television and get out of the house. I know this seems like a basic step, but it’s so important. How can you work with or for people if you aren’t interacting with, well, people? Study mannerisms, study speech patterns, study how strangers interact with one another. Become a student of human nature. Airports are a great place for this. You’ll be surprised what you can learn by mingling with the real world.

STEP EIGHT: SUBMIT, SUBMIT, SUBMIT. You can’t get feedback if you aren’t submitting. Need I say more?

STEP NINE: Hone your craft! My personal favorite and the one step we can completely control on our own. Successful people share one common trait: they never adopt the attitude that “they have arrived”. Each new project is an open challenge to take their skills to the next level. They are constantly learning new techniques. Are you? Make a commitment to find out where your skills are out of balance (and, yes, everyone has areas that need honing). Commit to improving the weakest part.

STEP TEN: Finish projects. You can’t be successful with only half-finished projects lying around. You can’t hone your craft by merely attending a workshop or reading a book written by an expert. You must practice, practice, practice.

There you have it. Ten steps you can control.


Missy Tippens said...

And look at you now!! :)

Great post, Renee!

Renee Ryan said...

Thanks, Missy. I try never to take my blessings for granted. It's been a loooooooong road. ;-)


Stephanie Newton said...

Great post, Renee...and applicable in so many ways. Thanks!!