Ever heard of Amanda Baldeneaux?
She's a mom with a full-time job. She's also a writer who worked on a short story for about a year "behind the closed glass doors" of her home office, with her "daughter often fogging up the glass as she sits on the other side, imploring me to come out and play or color with her." When she finished, Amanda submitted the story to publication after publication and was rejected by all of them. Every few months, she's submit it, get a rejection, revise a bit, and submit again.
One day, after receiving a rejection, she decided to restructure the whole thing—to start over. But before doing so, she received an email from the Missouri Review announcing that its deadline for its Editors' Prize was about to pass.
Since we writers thrive on deadlines, she thought, why not? I'll submit this before I crack it wide open and gut it.
Her story "Salt Land" won the prize, the Jeffrey E. Smith Prize—$5,000, one of the most prestigious fiction awards.
It was her only acceptance.
Here's what she says about the experience:
"When I received the email that my short story was on the shortlist for a prize, I was joyful. When I write after my full-time job, I have to essentially ignore my daughter, and mom guilt is real when indulging a hobby. Though my husband is extremely supportive, I'd be lying if I said finding out I'd made the shortlist, and then winning, didn't decrease the guilt."
I relate to Amanda. When I got the call from my agent that we had an offer from a publisher on the novel I'd been writing for six years, I was standing outdoors in the New York winter, holding a yoga mat in the rain, soaked and shivering because I was freezing. Nonetheless, I was aware of my entire body exhaling. The relief! It was going to happen.
Validation is important. It feels good. It justifies the hours and hours we spend writing.
But all of us have to work for a while before this validation comes—sometimes for years. And man, it can be hard at times to keep going without knowing if what we're working on is any good, if it's going to see the light, if it's going to be given space in the world outside our notebooks. But stories like Amanda's remind us that writing is thankless until it isn't, and that rejections are part of the process.
How many rejections did JK Rowling get? Something like 900? I'm exaggerating, but legend holds it's a lot.
When I was looking for an agent, I got over 70 rejections. Ultimately, do you know how many agents wanted to represent me?
And she became my agent.
The good news? You only need one.
You can be rejected again and again and again and again. You can sit alone in a room writing for years without anyone handing you accolades or a gold star or a contract (or, sometimes, even knowing that you're a writer!) Every writer must spend time writing into the unknown future, and your ego is likely to throw a tantrum every now and then. It's okay—give your ego a pat on the back and say, you're fine, go play a video game while I finish this chapter. Because at some point, if you keep writing, you will find your validation. It may not be the form you expect, but it will come...and it might be better than what you expect.
This is not horse s*&%. It's just fact.
So keep it up—you have a community here of folks doing the same thing!
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