Being a Writer is Like Being an Alcoholic

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Hi. I'm Sioux and I'm a writer. It's been four days since my last rejection. (Yeah, I know I blended being in an AA meeting with being in confessional. Sorry.)

Even though I've never had a problem with alcohol (food is my issue), I am a writer and it has been just four days since my manuscript was last rejected. In working on this post, I first sought up the advice of well-known authors (as I licked my wounds from the most recent, resounding "no") but then made the connection between struggling with an addiction and rejection... and this wine-ing session was born.

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

As a former member of Overeaters Anonymous (I've since fallen back in love with swimming in vats of chocolate pudding and mashed potatoes) I learned that people who struggle with addiction (and rejection) have to find a sponsor (editor/publisher) who is the perfect fit for them. One size does not fit all.

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

One of the main threads that runs through groups like OA and AA is striving towards progress, not perfection.  When you stumble, you go to another meeting. When you're rejected, submit again.

“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” – James Lee Burke

Being in a group like Overeaters Anonymous or AA means you learn a great deal about yourself--your triggers, your weaknesses, your strengths. As you write, you learn more about your craft. You refine your work, you reflect, you get feedback to better your story or manuscript.

“Rejection has value. It teaches us when our work or our skillset is not good enough and must be made better. This is a powerful revelation, like the burning UFO wheel seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or like the McRib sandwich shaped like the Virgin Mary seen by the prophet Steve Jenkins. Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” – Chuck Wendig

The "serenity prayer" is how the OA meetings finished up--at least in the group I was in.  Being able to recognize that there are some things that are out of our control (we can't change the mind of the editor who's rejecting our work--this time) and realizing we can change some things (how our sample begins or we can revise our query letter) allows us to let go what is beyond us.  Fixating and obsessing over things we don't have power over will only make us crazy.  Instead, focus on things we do have control over (after eating a plate full of cheese-y garlic bread to take the sting out of the rejection).

The writing accountability group Sioux Roslawski is a part of  (the Butt-Kickers) is struggling with rejection--some of the writers enjoy moments of success now and then, but the members moan and console each other when a rejection email is received. Sioux is seeking out an agent (or a publisher!) for her middle-grade manuscript (it's historical fiction!). If you're curious what her writing is like, check out her blog--Sioux's Page.  


Mary Horner said...

Sioux, is this an episode of the Twilight Zone? Are we the same person? I am SO dealing with the same thing right now. You are such a good writer, and it really must be true that you just haven't found the right person to appreciate your work at the right time. When you do, and you are being interviewed on a talk show for your best-seller, you will have great stories to tell about rejection that will encourage someone else to keep going.

Margo Dill said...

I really like how you found these quotes from professional writers and used them in your post. That is clever and inspirational--I agree with Mary that you just haven't found the right editor yet.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--When your book is published and my book is published, we'll BOTH have great stories to tell...

Margo--I keep hoping, every day, that the right editor comes along.

Fingers crossed...

Pat Wahler said...

Keep at it, Sioux, but remember there are many avenues to publishing in today's world-and they usually involve the same amount of work to market.

Linda O'Connell said...

Never ever say, "Never." I am a firm believer that rejection is about their needs not your writing. When you embrace that mantra, you move forward, although I recently overindulged in dark chocolate when I discovered I was not a contest winner.

Your powerful book will be a best seller. Do not be disheartened.

Renee Roberson said...


Hang in there! Believe me, I'm right there with you on these rejections but I do like the Sylvia Plath quote. I think we Butt Kickers have been so productive in the past year and these rejections are just showing us how hard we're working on the craft and putting ourselves out there. Luckily, I feel like we're all too busy to spend too much time wallowing, with work and all our other activities. I had to get more religious with my WW program this past week because I was drowning my sorrows in way too much chocolate and queso dip. We WILL find the perfect partner for our manuscripts!

Jackie Pick said...

Thank you for this! Much needed this morning!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux ~ I LOVE this analogy, and how you repurposed the serenity prayer! Yes! We shouldn't focus on the things we don't have power over and focus on what we do have control over. Rejection is part of the writing game, and every single writer goes through it, so we can't let it get to us. Focusing on making sure we have the best product is where it's at. Sometimes when I feel like I've put my heart and soul into something and know it's good, it doesn't matter to me if someone else accepts it. I believe in my own work enough that if it doesn't get picked up, I will focus on what I do have control over and green-light it myself, like Pat was referring to above. That's right for me, but one has to choose her own publishing path. With your MS, you've only just begun your submission process. When I plan to market my next project, I'm setting a number of agents to target, then editors to target, and a timeline of either six months or a year. If that doesn't happen, then I will go ahead and either hybrid or start my own publishing company. I think creating some sort of criteria might help: 100 agents or editors, 6 months or a year. Then the first rejections won't sting as much if you have a set limit and you're working your way through your goal, if that makes sense. Anyway, I believe in your project and think it needs to get out there in the hands of readers. I'm positive you will find an agent or editor, Sioux! Keeping my fingers crossed for you. Keep butt-kicking!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Pat---Thanks for the reminder... and for the link you sent me. I look to successful authors like you for inspiration.

Linda--I appreciate your encouragement. A bestseller? Have you been to the beach, drinking too many umbrella drinks? ;)

Renee--And I got more religious with a helping of scalloped potatoes... ;)

Jackie--I'm glad. We all need to support and lift each other up.

Angela--I really like your 100 editors/agents. That might be a goal that could work for me. Thanks.

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