By Amy Courage
You probably know that feeling. You get an email back from a publisher and read something like, “This is a sweet story, but we already have contracted authors writing about this theme.” Or, “Thank you for your submission, but your story doesn’t meet out publishing needs at this time.”
It happens to all of us. Pre-published, published, agented, and contracted writers alike. Even famous authors get bad reviews or not-so-hot sales (Ahem, The Cuckoo’s Calling before everyone knew J.K. Rowling had written it). We don’t really like to talk about this part of the writing journey, but I believe that often we need a little encouragement and equipping on how to deal with repeated rejections in the competitive children’s literature market. I know I do.
I’d like to offer a few (hopefully practical) ideas to keep looking ahead and thinking positively about writing goals.
1. Counteract negative self-talk.
I know that when I get a rejection of a story I’ve written it’s easy to spiral into negative thinking about my writing. Thoughts such as, “I’ll never get published,” or “My stories aren’t any good,” want to creep in.
The trick for me, in dealing with this kind of thinking, is to first recognize that it’s happening. My brain can sometimes be my worst enemy. Scientific studies have shown that habitual thought patterns create “pathways” in our brains. Just like sledding downhill presses down the snow in its path, when I think certain things over and over again, that becomes the default reaction.
So, the key is to create new pathways, new trails in my brain that will help me deal with rejection in healthier, more affirming ways. Instead of thinking, “My writing stinks. I’ll never be published,” I should try saying, “This opportunity didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say.”
This habit can be easier said than done, but learning to replace negative thoughts with better ones, may make the difference between persevering long enough to succeed, and stopping just before I reach my goal.
2. Change one thing.
When I get a rejection, it’s easy to feel powerless. One way to deal with these feelings and become more empowered is to change one thing in my life. Sometimes, I feel like I have a whole list of things I’d like to change about my life, but it’s better to pick just one small, simple thing.
For me, one small change I made recently was setting an alarm. Not an alarm to wake up in the morning, but an alarm to help me get to bed at night. This alarm helps me stick to a schedule where I get to bed, get to sleep and get to work the next morning in better time than I used to. The emotional benefit to this change has been significant and I feel more productive and less insecure about my performance at work.
3. Read what inspires you.
I find it helpful to remember what made me want to write children’s books in the first place. I like to revisit those stories and pieces of writing that I loved in my childhood. One of my favorite picture books is Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault, copyright 1990, illustrated by Fred Marcellino.
When I read this book as a kid it made me laugh, but looking at it now as a picture book writer I see different things. I appreciate the cleverness and humor in the writing, and how the beautiful illustrations marry so perfectly with the story. I like to come back to this story often because it inspires me to want to tell similar stories.
To close, I’d like to share a link to a recent article featured in the Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Newsletter:
Thanks for reading! What helps you to stay inspired in your writing or illustrating journey? Share your tips below.