After a few years in advertising, I felt like if I had to find one quality among newcomers in the field that would tell me they have what it takes, it would be the ability to handle rejection. Have you asked someone out and they've said no and you've picked your self-esteem off the floor and been okay some time later? Have you done this multiple times - with hopefully different people, because otherwise it's creepy, stalkerish behaviour? Congratulations and welcome to the creative department.
Because that's what life is like when you're creative - a series of rejections. You take your precious idea to someone, risking rejection and nine times out of ten, that's exactly what you get.
And like Dr Strange, you suffer that pain, then dust yourself off and try over and over again. But unlike Dr Strange, there is no lofty endgame for you (haha, Marvel pun). Trouble is, all it takes is one little anomaly and you forget it all. Call it what you will - an idea approved, a book deal accepted - but in the sparkle of that moment, in the rush of that joy, you forget the thousand cuts you faced to get there.
In case you haven't guessed, I'm in the thousand cuts phase right now. See, the next book in the Avantika Pandit series, the successor to Fatal Mistakes, has been politely turned down by my publisher. So it's going to be some time before you see what new shenanigans Avantika has been up to (it's some insane shit, I promise you). Meanwhile, I have been spending my time living as an existentialist meme.
The rest of the time, I'm hunting for literary agents and / or new publishers. Yet again. I thought I was done with piling rejection slips with Swear You Won't Tell? But apparently not. It's a soul-sapping process, I have to tell you. Approaching stranger after stranger with something it's taken the better part of two years to write, the manuscript that has kept you sane through a worldwide crisis, and then have them say, thanks, but not thanks. You'd think fifteen years in advertising would've prepared me for this series of unfortunate nos, but no. I'm reeling.
In my efforts to not sink into total despair, I have so far tried alcohol, chicken chilli fry, ice-cream and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which is of course, laughably apt for my situation by now), with varying degrees of success. But some shred of dignity that still remains, reminds me that it's all part of being an author. That publishing is a long game and I have years to go before I quit. That somewhere out there is a publisher who is waiting for a book like mine.
Or, that four years ago, I wrote a paean to hardship on this very blog. Quite something, really, being preached to by your own past self. But mostly, I'm getting by, by remembering that I actually love writing. The process itself, minus the publishing and promotion circus that accompanies it. I enjoy creating characters, building worlds, writing witty dialogue and laughing to myself as I read what I have written. I enjoy it, plain and simple. Being published is just a way of keeping score.
So while I send out my last finished novel into the world, hoping to get a book deal and bracing myself for more rejection, I'm also going to return to my work-in-progress and wreak splendid havoc in the lives of fictional people. Because it's just what I do. And what I love doing. Book deals notwithstanding.