If Life Throws You Lemons... - by author Larissa Lopes
It’s not easy to be rejected. We, as human beings, are hardwired to seek approval and acceptance. Our own survival depends on these things—since we wouldn’t be alive today, if we had been neglected by our families when we were kids. That’s why we are so afraid of rejection, and why it hurts so much every time it happens to us.
But while researching all my most successful heroes, I realized that rejections are not only inevitable, but also necessary for our personal development and the discovery of new paths in life. It would be a lot easier to get everything right the first time around, but then there would be no growth, no improvements, and most importantly, no lessons learned.
If you’re creating something original—as a writer, or no matter in which field—you’re exposing yourself to criticism and rejection. And persistence might be the key to your success, yes. But I’d like to share a few other tips to help you make some lemonade with all these lemons life has been throwing at you.
1) Rejections are not setbacks, they exist to make you grow and to point you in the right direction
No one is born a professional—in anything. Even the most talented athletes or musicians, need to practice for hours and hours every day, in order to develop their skills and make the most out of their talent. With writing, it’s the same! So, before you start querying (or give up on querying and decide to self-publish), make sure you don’t need more time to simply develop yourself.
But I’m not talking only about the manuscript, here. It took me a while to understand the publishing industry, and what exactly agents and editors were looking for in a query. And because of that, most of my initial mistakes were related to not knowing what I was doing. (I didn’t know which genre I was writing, for example, so I wasted a lot of time querying agents who didn’t even represent my type of book!)
That’s why, to me, it is crucial that we stop seeing rejections as setbacks. They are powerful tools to help us grow and to point us in the right direction. Once you stop feeling sorry for yourself and start asking what can you learn from this, that’s when you actually get one step closer to reaching your goal.
2) Get all the help you can get
One of the advices aspiring writers get all the time is to “research.” And that’s a great advice—you can find basically every information you need in podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs. But what helped me improve the most during my querying journey, were the many “critique giveaways” that I was lucky to win. They are very common right before pitch contests on Twitter, like #PitMad and #DVpit. So, you if you’re querying, you should definitely keep your eyes open from now on.
What I only learned after I got signed though, is that there are A LOT of authors out there willing to help other writers in the early stages of their careers! We’ve all been there, we know the importance of receiving feedback. And I genuinely believe most agented authors wouldn’t say “no” if you sent them a direct message, asking for a query critique, for example. So, if you’re getting too many rejections, how about considering actually asking for help?
3) Listen to feedback, yes. But not from everyone!
When I say you should listen to feedback, let me make this clear, I’m talking about people who know the publishing industry better than you! I love this Brené Brown quote that says: “If you're not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” Writers, and artists in general, are very exposed to criticism. Everybody has an opinion on your book, or your career. And some of these comments can be very, very discouraging—if you let them get into your head.
To me, the hardest moments of the querying process weren’t even opening my inbox and seeing the rejections letters. What hurt me the most was the self-doubt loop I got stuck in, every time my dad tried to make me be more “realistic” about my dream of becoming a full-time writer, for example.
So, don’t let this kind of comments discourage you! In order to grow, you must be open to suggestions and feedback—but from people who have already gone through what you’re going through! Keep in mind that if they’ve never been in the querying arena (dealing with rejections, and self-doubt, and all the challenges that come with the publishing process), they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.
4) Keep your faith
I started my “motivational wall” the day I got my first “nice rejection letter.”
The agent took the time to write me this one encouraging line about my story, and I felt so full of hope that it almost didn’t matter that I was getting a “no” from her.
After that, every little positive comment from agents, or the #WritingCommunity during pitch contests, ended up on my wall.
It’s very important to stay optimistic and to keep believing. So, do whatever you need to do in order to keep your faith! Go build yourself a wall like mine; or make a vision board; or write down your goals in a piece of paper, whatever you want… But make sure you have something physical to show you the light, during the darkest times.
5) Learn from your mistakes and never give up
I had to be rejected over 100 times before getting an agent and a two-book deal. But today, I’m glad I had to wait those 2 years. I’m glad I had to learn all those lessons, and grow myself as a writer. I’m glad I didn’t rush anything by publishing one of those early versions of my manuscript.
We live in a world where we’re used to getting everything we want, as fast as we can. But art doesn’t work like that. Creativity doesn’t work like that! We need time to discover ourselves, and to develop our crafts. So, keep learning—that’s the best advice I can give you. Because as long as you’re developing yourself, you can be sure that sooner or later you’ll be recognized for it.
Persistence, and faith are the ultimate keys to success. But only when you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and keep trying until you get it right.
As my character #AlecBrock would say: “Step by step, we all need to climb. Mistake after mistake, that’s how we get it right.”
Born and raised in Brazil but currently living in France, Larissa is a real citizen of the world, trying to write her own story the best way she can. Romance, personal growth, and multiculturalism are the core of her writing. And when she isn’t secretly living her characters’ lives in her head, she’s working as a researcher, as a teacher, or inspiring people to become their best version with #TheBestVersionOfMyselfMovement.
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