Strategy and action will only get you so far in the land of publishing deals and creative manifestation.
You might have heard the saying: “rejection is God’s protection” and (like me) believe that to be true when you’ve had some space and distance from the rejection. But in the moment when your ego is bruised and you have immediate unfulfilled needs, rejections can make you feel like you’re back in childhood and your ice cream has fallen SPLAT onto the footpath before you even got one bite.
In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learnt after a season of rejections, and share what it’s taught me about resistance.
And it’s my wish that it helps you too, to see how you resist allowing yourself to want what you want, resist being HONEST and claiming what you want, and resistance and fear around going all in, 100% in, no room for deviation or compromise, on living in a way that is exactly what you want.
Let me explain.
Since packing up my mountain oasis because the roof was leaking and the floor was sinking (have you seen the hilarious Chevy Chase film, Funny Farm? It was like that!) I’ve been staying in a rather cosy flat with my partner (we affectionately call The Paris Apartment, because it’s TINY and there’s no real room to cook in the kitchen).
Most of my belongings are in storage.
For three months I’ve been applying for new places to live, and receiving rejection after rejection. One, particularly bruised my ego. The email came two days before Christmas, and I’d been internally furnishing the place for days by then. But the subject line left no room for doubt: RENTAL APPLICATION REJECTED.
No explanation. No logic. No information provided so I could fix whatever I’d apparently done ‘wrong’.
Of course, friends and family would say ‘there’s no rentals at the moment… it’s very competitive… someone else obviously got in first…’ etc etc etc. But I know that nothing every really meant for you passes you by.
It’s annoying, actually, that I believe that.
Because if that’s true, then what was I missing and why was I applying for things that weren’t ‘meant’ for me?
My higher self, of course, knew it must be for the best. The owner may have been a complete maniac or there’s some other reason I wasn’t meant to get that particular habitat for the next phase of my life… but an IMMEDIATE need was there because week after week, I’d struggle to cook in the teeny apartment and things were getting more and more difficult in such a small space.
And, I’d been traipsing with 40 or so other applicants, queuing down the street to view a decrepit living space which usually had 5- 6 things seriously wrong, for a five minute viewing in which you’re supposed to make a decision about the most important foundational element to your life – your HOME. And, if you’re sensitive to your environment (I am), making big decisions like that with a crowd of sweaty strangers (ALSO going through the uncertainty of searching) breathing on you and jostling and vying to see if it had a heater / strange neighbour / peeling paint or signs of mould…. It’s hard to sift your true feelings from those of the masses!
I’m not sure how many places I’ve viewed and applied for, over the last 3 months. Six? fifteen? And it doesn’t matter anyway. Because when you DO find the right place you understand EXACTLY why you had all those rejections, and what they showed you about yourself that led you to a better outcome.
And this is why the house hunt made me think of publishing, and what it can teach us about rejection and resistance with our writing projects.
PUBLISHING STRATEGY AND KNOW-HOW ONLY GETS YOU SO FAR…
When I was at a particular point of success as a freelance journalist, getting published widely and constantly, a younger writer asked to shout me coffee in return for some freelance advice. Her very studious, business-minded face ready with pen to make notes when she asked for a percentage rate on how many story pitches I had to send, to get an acceptance.
I was really only getting accepted at that point. I’d dedicated myself to persevering through a year of pitching and writing ‘on spec’ to learn how the process worked, and by that year, I was ONLY writing on things I wanted to write about, for publications and outlets I enjoyed working with, and if things were a bit too tricky and friction-filled, I’d let them go and move onto an idea or a story that was much easier. I was pretty much getting everything I pitched, published.
And it felt very arrogant to say this to a young writer who was looking at it like a sales and percentage game, where she needed to send a certain number of queries to get a certain number of commissions, but just like I found with my rental applications, it doesn’t work like that.
You can have all the sales strategy in the world, but if you’re out of alignment with what you’re selling (because of either a lack of knowledge / data on the industry or lack of honesty with your true self about what it is you want to put your precious focus and time and intention into, to write), it’s not going to flow!
Of course, this is painful to realise. Because it’s like facing the fact that WE are the ones that dropped the ice cream. WE are the ones responsible for whether or not that ice cream cone stays stable enough or melts in our little fist before we can eat it.
THE QUERY PROCESS IS LIKE THIS
I was thinking about this ‘percentage’ question from the freelancer as I prepared my query workshop, because I was sifting through over a decade of emails and interactions over nonfiction book queries that sold and those that didn’t.
Because when I’ve been all in on a pitch, on a story, when it was truly in alignment (AND had the necessary sales and business data to accurately write the sales documents), there WAS NO rejection. A Letter From Paris was like that. We went from query to offers to deal in a ludicrous space of time, and that’s because I was in alignment and 100% truth and integrity that it was something I MUST do and I WANTED to do (and be paid an advance to do) from the moment it appeared. And I would do what it took, which was a LOT, because i was coming from a place of deep desire. NOT need. NOT struggle. NOT hardship.
There was feedback, sure, and various versions of the query, and decisions that needed to be made about publishers and preferences, but the idea of ‘letting this story go’ was never an option. It didn’t exist in my reality – there was no way, in my world, that a story like that would land in my lap without me being given the tools and resources to bring it out.
There was a deep inner knowing at a core level, and that came from complete desire for the outcome (not need, want). And I’d already done the necessary apprenticeships: I’d written and published a book before, I knew the basics. This was asking me to expand my identity and become a true professional – one who didn’t discount that first book as a ‘lucky fluke’ but who knew she was up to the task of writing a full (and publication-standard!) memoir, and a complex one at that (!), because if i didn’t know that with 100% certainty, how on earth could I convey that unshakeable certainty and confidence in my queries and negotiations with agents and editors over the project?
And it was the same when I was at that high point of my freelance career. At that point, because I was writing for certain publications so consistently, my decision to query another story or not never came from a necessity to meet ‘sales targets and percentages’. When you’re a freelance writer getting bylines in publications for stories you’ve brought into existence from idea, to query, to fruition, it’s all about connection to your true self.
And I realised this, when the writer asked me how many stories I needed to pitch to get a commission, as if i could give her a figure!
It was never about percentages.
It was a question of whether or not I had time to write another article – that was what dictated my decision to query or not. Because I knew that IF I was in true alignment and that story was meant for me and i felt that, it would get commissioned.
If I truly wanted to write that story now, for that publication, and could see how it would play out and feel excited for that, then it would.
So what’s this got to do with house-hunting? (This story does have a point – and a happy ending, I promise).
I was remembering all this and considering what I would advise a writer who WAS receiving a lot of rejections on queries for either a book manuscript or story pitches… for Tuesday’s query workshop, and I thought of my rental situation of the past few months.
Because it’s pretty much the same thing: a query, an application for a particular outcome. When you apply to rent a property, you’re asking the owner or the rental agent to make a decision on whether or not you’re the right fit.
And for three months, I was getting ‘NO’.
What would I say to a writer who was getting rejected for every query they sent?
I’d check they knew the basics of query strategy (what to send and when, and how), and that they could actually write a query from a technical point of view…but just as importantly, I’d get them to do some internal questioning.
Here’s some questions you could try:
- If rejection is a reflection of inner resistance (because I truly believe the world is our mirror), what comes up when you think of fears or doubts you have about writing for that ppublication (or getting a book deal with that publisher / agent)?
- What’s the first thing that appears when you ask yourself: why did this story get rejected?
- Is there any information missing here, that you require, to make a better decision about who and where you query?
And… in terms of the book or the story… Can you see yourself writing it, joyously interacting over it, is the why something that brings you pleasure? In my own example, for my two published books, I could see it in bookshops, I could see myself doing the research required, or the writing, and THAT filled me with pleasure and fulfilment.
But if there’s any fear / displeasure etc., that’s inner resistance.
And just like you can say queries are getting rejected because of the ‘publishing industry right now’ etc etc you could also tell me my rental applications were rejected because of the state of the market, the glut of students in the city, the 95% housing occupancy rate or blah blah blah. If you want to ‘argue for your limitations’ as the wonderful Jim Self puts it, there will always be a valid argument.
But if you want to live in authentic alignment with your REAL wishes and desires, and actually get what you want – which is often miraculous and makes no logical sense because it happens regardless of ‘market conditions’ – this requires honesty and bravery to look inside and face your own resistance to your desire of the ‘thing’ .
This is where you uncover why you keep getting rejected.
What is it you fear about the thing? What is it you don’t want?
In my case, ten days ago, after rejection for Melbourne rental number 5 (or whatever), I walked along the beach in Elwood for an hour and asked myself, honestly, if I truly, 100% wanted to stay in Melbourne and could see myself living joyously here for the next year?
No. The answer was loud and clear. Yes, despite the beautiful sunshine and beach and life and Summer.
And suddenly the rejection was a HUGE blessing because I found that the idea made me feel trapped in an old story I’d long since outgrown.
So where would I live if nobody cared and nobody would be hurt and nobody had any opinion and I could live anywhere I wanted? And what would the house look like?
It would have space for an office and be close to a forest for hiking and… and…. and…
I’d go back to the mountain.
But this time, I’d accept my desires and get a place with no Funny Farm business, instead all solid and insulated and secure.
A few days after this epiphany, I found a place.
And the acceptance made no sense, just as the rejections of three months had made no sense.
Of course, I took action. Of course, I put in a fantastic application and ticked all the boxes of strategy and moved quickly and had all my paperwork in order. But I’d done all of that with the previous places, too.
And I truly believe the reason it all flowed so miraculously, so mysteriously, so quickly, like the query to deal stories I have with both my memoir manuscripts, is because it was about true desire and 100% alignment, not logic and reasoning and ‘this looks good on paper’ or ‘I can explain this solidly to someone else’. It was about what felt right for ME. And I didn’t NEED to explain it to anyone else.
The space inspired me to think bigger, I felt EXCITED in that home (my home), not pulled back to the past, to a version of myself and old habits and beliefs and patterns I no longer resonate with.
It was a ‘next level’ excitement because it pulled me to EXPAND, not contract and compromise (read: lie to myself) about what it was I actually wanted.
The whole thing with the house was ludicrously wonderful, the estate agent even gave me a flower from the front garden to take home, not knowing that’s MY trick to ensure an application is a success!!
By the time I was back in Melbourne in the car, she’d called to say congratulations.
The lesson I learnt from the rejections of the last three months is that we need to ask ourselves where we are rejecting OURSELVES when something isn’t flowing.
Where are you not owning and accepting what you TRULY desire? If it applies to the book you’re querying, what is it about the book’s publication that scares you or holds you back from moving in a way that means your success is inevitable?
- Maybe you need more information about the publishing process (the lack of knowing is what scares you…)
- Maybe you don’t truly want to share certain things openly in a published book to a wide audience (in which case, you can go back and revise the manuscript).
You’ll generally find some fear there, if you’re truly honest with yourself.
- Because when you’re moving in that space of LOVE – I love this book, I LOVE this story, this house/book/story/job is my 100% aligned purpose RIGHT now, then there is no fear and there is no resistance and you’re not pushing and pulling from a place of need or fear. It’s just desire, joy, excitement, potential. Want, not need.
Maybe rejection IS protection. It’s our soul’s way of protecting us from getting what we don’t really want.
And pointing us towards what we really, really love.