Encouragement List

It’s important for writers to write and submit. The submitting part is especially important. L. Timmel Duchamp stressed this to us at Clarion West. At a certain point, you have to let go of a story and send it out. The submitting process is important not just in terms of your writing career, but psychologically, too.

When I’m not actively submitting, I don’t feel like a writer. I start to feel as if my writing time is selfish, and that I should be spending that time cleaning house and whatnot.

Submitting makes me feel part of the writing world, and that my writing process is moving forward. I might be sitting still at my desk, but my stories are moving around. Someone’s reading them besides me, and I’m going to get feedback on whether that story works or not – even if that feedback is just a form rejection letter.

A sampling from my rejectomancy box

After several years and many submissions, I thought I was immune to rejection depression. I decided to aim higher. I applied for some big opportunities that had the potential to change my life so that I could focus on writing full-time for a year or two: fellowships, grants, residencies.

I was rejected. And it stung worse than my first rejection letter.

So I opened up a Word document and wrote “Encouragement” in the header. I even used a swirly, crazy font that I would never use in a professional document. I gave myself full permission to do some ego-stoking for the space of one Word file.

My Encouragement List

What have I put in this document so far? Words from critique partners pointing out strengths in my writing. Nudges from professors to keep writing. Positive feedback from journals and contests, even when I was ultimately not accepted for publication.

I don’t want to spend too much time telling myself I’m a good writer. I never want to get to the point where I think that my writing doesn’t need any revision – that everything I write is perfect.

But to keep going, I need these words of encouragement to turn to when I feel like I’m a horrible writer. They’re the food I’m squirreling away for winter days, the lean times between acceptances. Because I know that the most important part to becoming a good writer is to keep going. Not just writing, but finishing and ushering my stories out the door.

6 thoughts on “Encouragement List

  1. That sounds like a great idea. I think everyone needs the equivalent of a warm hug every once in a while. I think the acceptance hugs feel great, but those are few and far between. Like a passive-aggressive parent.

    I've found that when I send my stories to a place that I think they will fit really well (like an anthology with a specific theme) I get pretty sad when the story comes back. But I rescued a story from my trunk through this very process, so it isn't all bad!

    Anyway, your writing is beautiful.

  2. I've been going through the exact same thing the past few months. It's funny how, when you apply for something bigger and more competitive than usual, it actually stings worse when you get rejected. The Encouragement list is a great idea! I have a file of saved emails from editors and agents who, though they rejected me, said encouraging things in the rejections, and I swear there are times when I would probably just give up if I didn't have that file to look through and remind myself that I'm not as bad as I sometimes think I am.

    You're an amazing writer, Jenni. Don't ever forget that, and don't forget, too, that landing those fellowships and grants and things takes just as much luck as it does ability. Keep trying!

  3. Got the ultimate rejection letter the other day, for a higher-paying job. They not only didn't want to interview me, they let me know they were re-opening the position because they didn't get any good resumes. And pointedly did not invite me to apply again. Ouch.

    But, yeah, submitting is important. Without it, you're a coulda-been.

  4. Thanks Eliza! I think you're totally right – it stings much more when I think that either my story or, in the case of fellowships, myself would be a great fit.

    There should be a panel at workshops and such where everyone just gets hugged for being a writer. 🙂

  5. Hey Mike!

    That stinks. I'm sorry that rejection letter was so callously written.

    But I'm glad you're looking for something better – you deserve a position with a library that takes better care of its employees. 🙂

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