Just hours after mentioning that my first manuscript is in the queue, waiting to be judged and potentially passed onto the next round, I get the email letting me know that the list of novels that made it past the first round have been put up.
Like a high school freshman desperate to make the varsity team, I went on Amazon's website, checked the list ... and could downright hear the "whomp whomp" go off in the background.
I knew it was a longshot. There were almost 10,000 entries, and only 400 would make the first round cut. That's a less than 1% chance of making it. I was warned that the first round is a complete crapshot; that there's no way to really quantify why certain pitches made it and certain pitches didn't. I'd like to pretend that my pitch was in the top 10%, but the cut isn't for 1,000 entries.
Although I'll let you in a dirty little secret: it doesn't matter how often you tell yourself that the odds are stacked against you, rejection really lets the wind out of your sails. I can tell myself that rejection is the name of the game, that at least it gave me a chance to revamp my novel, that I have so many other incredible things (writing and otherwise) waiting in the wings, but it doesn't matter: I saw that list, I saw my name very much not on that list, and I just want to hug a puppy and eat some chocolate.
But you know what I did instead? I put on some music, grooved out as I got some very necessary housework done, took a shower, sat down, and continued to write my third manuscript. I wrote out a solid chunk of the scene, stopping only when I couldn't figure out just how else the scene was going to go. I sent a few emails about a particular project and I revamped my query letter for my first manuscript. I then went off to teach my tai chi class, singing along to whatever songs I wanted during my drive down and back.
Tuukka Rask is an incredible goalie -- not because he's a brick wall and can shut out the competition, but because he doesn't let a few missed goals throw him off balance. Anderson Silva was the champ -- not just because of his skill, but his ability to come back even when he had been tossed around left and right (a perfect example of this would be the Silva/Sonnen 1 fight, which you should totally Youtube because MMA is a wonderful sport that y'all need to be a part of). Stephen King used to have a spike set on his wall, so he could collect all of the rejection letters he used to get. I know it's campy and overused, but it's not about how often you can succeed, but how you act when you fail, that defines your character.
I was talking with my best friend last night, about all the writer friends we used to know (and when you study English in college, all you know are writer people). How many of them still write to this day? How many of them continued to write after they graduated -- let alone 4+ years after graduating? And how many of them saw the hurdles -- the writer's block, the rejection, the insurmountable odds -- and just went along with their desk jobs, working for the weekend, fantasizing about an alternative reality where they're a mega bestseller and going on Letterman to promote their newest book.
Like I mentioned yesterday, the fantasy of me being a bestseller by 25 is long gone (given that I'm solidly in my 27th year *gulp*), and I am pretty sure I'm jamming up some part of Gmail with all the saved rejection emails I have. But I have made incredible strides forward, and I am doing things that other would-be writers could be pretty jealous of. Just because I can't sell a manuscript, just because I can't win a contest -- it doesn't take away from the progress I'm making.
Everything happens exactly the way it's supposed to happen, and for a very exact meaning. All I can do is have faith that I'm on the right path, and eventually something will click.