There is nothing like clicking the “Send” or “Submit” button to thrust you into a whitewater rush of doubt and self-criticality. Even dread. That’s what I’m experiencing, anyway. After three years of hitting that 100-plus rejection target, I find my pain is not so much in the rejections, but in the sendings.
I think it’s a healthy thing to expect to be rejected. So why the dread?
In preparing your work for the world’s eyes, you write, you read, you edit, you repeat. You interrogate your self and your work. You inject kilocalories of emotional energy — more if the work is bigger or the stakes are higher. You’re working up to submission, riding the surge to the crest and the view to the shore is getting clearer.
Then — oh, happy day! — you deem it ready to send. You double-check the due dates and guidelines, make sure your cover letter is schmicko, no errors, shiny bio, correct file attached. Your finger hovers over that orange/green/red/else-coloured button…
It is done.
You breathe out. You move on, maybe with work, maybe with life.
But sometime later the swell of reality grabs you up and dumps you on the
sand jagged reef. You’re sure you wrote “ambivalent” twice in a paragraph. Did you use “just” too many times? Maybe you had better open that file again and make sure you used “discreet” and not “discrete”… Why did you not tie up the thread around the main character’s phobia of chocolate? Oh, no — you forgot to change the footer when you changed the title! Is this story even any good?
If you, like me, find yourself following a similar thought spiral, it can be debilitating.
Sure, you can make a pact with your brain to expunge all memory of that piece from your head, to remind yourself you write for the journey because there is no end. But you still need to recover from the energy you’ve invested. You still need to come down from that wave.
I have noticed that a good mental space normally follows physical change. My list of energy-replenishing strategies is a work in progress, but so far it includes:
- move — I favour yoga and walking. I can do these pretty much anytime, although midnight walking is not super practical;
- breathe — pranayama, all the way;
- eat — and drink. My morning routine on a writing day includes hot water with lemon, followed by coffee; at night, it’s red wine and herbal teas. I have to remind myself to drink water. I eat mostly unprocessed foods, and I find that is most important for keeping balance;
- live — have a lunch date, talk to a friend, cook a curry from scratch, coach a child through a difficult conversation, crochet a granny square, listen to a favourite album, volunteer for a few hours. Just get out of the house. Every aspect of living helps me to connect and empathise, adds to my understanding of the human psyche and the universe, and gives me a mental break from what can be a very insular world;
- ask (and expect help to be forthcoming) — I accept that some days will be more exhausting than others, and my obsession with the written word means that things will drop around me from time to time. I have amazing people in my life who are willing to give, and forgive. I’m learning to be self-aware enough to recognise when and how I need them, and to communicate this in a loving way; and
- get lost. I did this for a long weekend in August. Three nights and four days in nature, sans iPad and usual responsibilities. Best decision ever.
So you know a little more about me and my quirks. What about you? Have you ever struggled with the sendings? How do you replenish yourself when you are spent?
In other news, this is a big month for me:
- 21 October – I’ll be at the Centre for Stories, on a panel as part of this year’s Australian Short Story Festival. It’s my first-ever panel. This could go very well, or very badly. Come along and ogle (and please don’t judge me too harshly).
- 26 October – issue 49 of Crannóg Magazine will feature my short story, ‘Red with a Purple Stripe’. I can’t make it to Ireland for the launch event but, if you happen to be near The Crane Bar in Galway on that date, you will find a roomful of excellent people mingling and reading from 6:30pm.
- 29 October – I start my three-week residency at Peter Cowan Writers Centre.
If you see me out and about, be sure to say hi.