On Rejection and Heartbreak

I haven’t told very many people about this because it’s sort of painful. When I was in college at UCLA, I was way into this guy. He had these amazing green eyes and a great smile, and a laugh that was just flat-out sexy. He was smart and funny—a surfer who was also a geologist, a frat boy who actually wasn’t very fratty, if you know what I mean—and so when we went from friends to more than friends, I fell. Hard and fast.

Having been friends for almost a year prior, we were instantly in the zone as a couple. The time I spent with him was one thousand percent butterfly in the stomach-inducing, but at the same time, it felt natural. Quite honestly, it was amazing.

Then, after only a few weeks together, we had this conversation:

Him: So, I’ve been seeing *Anna while we’ve been together…
Me: Oh. You have?
Him: Yeah.
Me: You mean Anna, my friend? That Anna?
Him: Yeah. That Anna. And anyway, it’s time for me to make a choice. God, this is so hard to do.
Me: You’re not choosing me… Are you?
Him: No. I’m sorry. I really like you. I’m really afraid I’m going to regret this.
Me: (thinking: I hope to hell that you do.)
Him: I’m sorry… Are you mad?
Me: Not yet, but I’m definitely going to get there.

*Some names may have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Anyway.  I’ll stop there.

That hurt. It actually still hurts a little bit even though a lot of time has passed, and, more importantly, since I’ve married the right guy—a guy who has always made me feel like I'm the center of his universe. A guy who would never, not in a million years, two-time anyone or behave in such a self-centered way in the midst of a breakup. Ahem. I digress.

So, for a while after that experience, I went around having these kinds of thoughts: Why is she better? Why wasn’t I enough for him? Where did I go wrong?

Now, I realize that it all worked out the way it should have. I realize that I definitely feel like enough to myself. I am enough to my husband and my parents and my friends. I think I’m more than enough to my kids. To the people who matter, I am enough. Surfer-geologist and I just weren’t a good fit. And thank goodness for that.

Why is this a harder position to take with respect to my novels? When I see an unfavorable review, why can’t I just say, “my book just wasn’t a good fit for that reader.”

The truth is that sometimes I can. Plenty of times. Having one book under my belt, it helps to know that while some readers might reject my ideas and my characters, there are many who like—and even love them. But sometimes there’s still that twinge. Those questions: Why wasn’t it enough? What could I have done better?

What I’ve been working on for about a year now, is trying to define my own success. I would love to get to the point where I create the parameters of whether I succeed or fail. As much as I crave accolades (just being honest, I do), my goal is to bring the focus to the work.

Did I write a great scene? A great character? A great story?

I want to be able to say, “I did good work today.”

I want to say that with unshakable conviction.

I want to feel enoughness in my writing, no matter what others say.

Scratch that. I want to feel like more than enough and only I can give myself that.

Like Surfer-Geologist years ago, I can make a choice. When it’s someone else’s opinion of my work versus my own, guess whose I’m going to choose?

Booyah. Take that one all the way to the beach.

16 comments

This is empowering. I'm terrified at the very idea of publishing my work (even though that's been my goal for...oh, six years or so) because no matter what, not everyone will like it.

If publication ever happens for me, I'm going to remember this.

And I'll avoid reading reviews like...like someone avoiding a two-timing jerk ex-boyfriend.

Yes, Beth. Avoiding the negative stuff is definitely a good plan. Part of the business, unfortunately. But outweighed by the good. Fingers crossed for you. And thanks, T!

I'm still stuck on the fact that he was co-mingling with your friend! What kind of friend does that? Guys come and go, but girlfriends - those are supposed to last forever!

Are you still friends with her? I'm sort of hoping you kicked her to the curb.

This is definitely you kissed a frog to find your prince moment.

Aw, Heidi. I want to track you down and hug you right now. The situation was that they'd been together, but had broken up. Apparently I was part of their timeout, which wasn't really a timeout. Also, she wasn't a close friend at all. But still. You rock. And you're right.

Someone once told me that you are successful when you achieve what you want -not what other people want for or from you. I like that :)))

Now for the second part. I think this has come at a very good time for me. I wrote - yep - a book, manuscript, a pile of rubbage - whatever you want to call it. Had a pre-reader, a published author and finally an editor from an agency tweak, fine tune... all the good stuff before I sent it off.

What a total let down when I get a rejection letter, well more like a sentence, from an agent who reps a book/author that I've read.

I scratch my head, going huh - are they comparing my book to the other YA book? It makes me wonder.

As a reviewer, I try not to give negative reviews. There is no point in slamming the author and I receive zero satisfaction. I will, however, give an unfavorable review if the author has chosen small town Washington with a police chief dad and clumsy character as their lead or a main character that steals, lies or commits other major felonies without getting in trouble.

I hadn't really considered this as I'm not there yet, but yes. It must be extremely hard to distance your emotions to a degree where a bad review won't hurt. Your books are like your children. The reviewer is criticising the job you've done with that child. Ouch. When you figure out how to create that distance, will you teach the rest of us? :)

This is exactly what I've been battling today. The fear that all my work isn't good enough. I've even fallen a little out of love with it. I let doubt intimidate me.

But then the next idea came and I'm a doing the work that needs to get done to fulfill my own dream.

I blog about it today at: www.writerhughes.wordpress.com

LOVE THIS! Ms. More Than Enough... (wink, hug)

We all know rejection, but optimists know that your hunk missed out and is probably kicking himself now. You were lucky that he went for Anna otherwise youwouldn't be with hubby and have your lovely kids;)

Heidi, just keep at it! Don't let one rejection stop you. Don't let thirty stop you, for that matter. Just keep going. Fingers crossed for you. Nancy - I work on that every day. To some degree, you don't want to disconnect TOO much. I guess it's a double-edged sword. Writerhuges - sorry to hear you've struggled with this too. I think we all do! I look forward to reading your post! Jackie - you are More than Enough, too <3 And thank you Anonymous. I couldn't agree more.

I'm 17 years old and never had a boyfriend! (it's a joke I like to say but it also bugs me at some time) So thoughts like "what's wrong with me?" "will I ever be good enough" "gee, the guy I like pretends I don't exist!" and I dream to become a published author and the same exact thoughts run my head "will people listen to my story?" "will they even like it?" etc...

Thank you for this post, Veronica! It reminded me that I define my own self-worth and to make a choice to believe that I could be enough for work and relationship wise and that maybe the other boys won't work to make way for Mr. Right :)

P.S. Surfer dude must hate coming to the bookstore and seeing your smash success novel! Poor fella didn't know what he lost.

Sincerely,
Michelle

I don't think anyone should let bad reviews stop them from publishing their work. People write bad reviews for everything. I was just reading home direct reviews and I couldn't believe what some of the reviews.
I can't believe a "friend" could do that to you. I hope she got what she deserved. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle, just seeing your comment now. I'm so glad this post was helpful to you. You are absolutely right to believe in yourself, and define your own self worth... Seventeen and you've got that wisdom... That's better than anything a boy can give you. Good luck with the writing!

Mackenzie - you are so right. Anything that you put out to the public has the potential to be criticized. I guess is one of the up sides of our world....everyone can have a voice. I agree that it shouldn't be a deterrent to sharing your work. Thanks for commenting!

I don't have any reviews yet, or a published book. :) But I can relate this romantic rejection advice to the agent search. It's been a really long time since I queried because I want to be sure my work is truly ready. And, if I'm honest, it's also because I'm afraid of getting rejected again. It's good to know that my near misses weren't necessarily because I'm not good enough. They could be because we just weren't a good fit. Or even that my queried project wasn't a good fit at that time.

Great post! Thank you!

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