Everything Is Medicine

So, the nice literary agent in New York who continues to be very encouraging about The Saltwater Twin recommends that I stop working on it for a while and focus on submitting work for publication. She thinks two or three more publications under my belt will put us in a better position to sell the manuscript when that time comes. Consequently, while I haven’t stopped writing altogether, I’ve begun to devote half my time to researching literary magazines and websites, polishing excerpts of chapters and sending them out via email and manila envelopes…and the rejections have begun to trickle in.

I’ll be honest. I enjoy praise. I like As. It’s pleasant to have people tell me I’m wonderful, especially at something I’ve worked hard at. It feels good. But, despite the fact that praise is more fun, rejection is part of any artistic practice (not to mention part of life), and it’s helpful to learn how to take it in stride. There are thousands of blogs and websites and articles that offer advice on how to deal with getting rejected by love interests and job interests and even a whole bunch of sites talking specifically about how to deal with rejection as a writer. I like the advice of an irreverent fellow called Chuck Wendig who blogs at terribleminds:

“Every book, movie, or story you love? It’s been rejected. Probably not once. But dozens, maybe even hundreds of times. It’s part of the writer’s career tapestry, part of our blood and genetic memory. Rejection is part of who we are as creative beings. Might as well commiserate.”

So how do you deal with it? How do you keep from getting the wind knocked out of you every time? Mr. Wendig goes on to advise,

“Step to it. Suck it up. Lean into the punch. We all get knocked down. This is your chance to get back up again with your rolled-up manuscript in your hand and start swinging like a ninja…You need to see rejection as bad-ass Viking Warrior battle scars, as a roadmap of pain that makes you stronger, faster, smarter, and stranger. Rejections are proof of your efforts. Be proud to have ‘em.”

I think about learning to ride a bike. How many times I fell off, the weeks I spent with chronically bloodied knees. But I kept getting back on.

This past Saturday I went to a very interesting event called a gong bath. Maybe I’ll tell you more about that sometime. One of my favorite things – actually probably my favorite thing – about the evening happened during the introduction when the leader said, “Everything is medicine.” I like that thought. I love that thought. Everything is medicine. I am medicine. Penne with tomato cream is medicine. Rejection is medicine, too. It’s a tonic for toughening up, being persistent, weaning yourself off a need for extrinsic praise, finding satisfaction in doing the work as best you can. Getting back on the bike. Wobbling down the street until the whole balancing and pedaling and steering act is second nature. Until it feels like flying.

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18 thoughts on “Everything Is Medicine

  1. Is a gong bath like sensory deprivation floating. I love that. Okay, here’s the interesting thing about being an artist: you have to deal with rejection all the time and to do that, it requires a huge amount of sense of self. And yet, artists who are willing to risk and create something new and terrifying usually have a very fragile sense of self. I think it’s such an interesting balancing act between knowing yourself and knowing how to present yourself. I can’t wait to see your book in print doll!

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    1. I have never done that alien coffin pod floating. Too claustrophobic I think. Interesting ideas, Mr. Tim, about sense of self and ability to create. I will chew on that for a while. Come with me to the gong bath in November. It made me laugh and Ann sneeze.

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  2. I agree with Jill….the post had medicinal properties…..food for the soul. I too look forward to discovering what a gong bath entails! Keep taking your medicine and one day there will be MAGIC!

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  3. Great post, Maia! You’re so right with the whole rejection thing–especially for writers who put their heart and soul into a piece only to have it thrown back in their faces. One thing you have going for you already, though, is that you HAVE a literary agent. That little step seems to be one of the toughest parts of getting published! I’m still searching. Any advice on how to find the right one? How did you manage to find your literary agent?

    PS “Rejection is medicine” = brilliance

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    1. Hmm, Kelsey, I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom about this. I am very new to the whole publishing scene myself. The agent who is interested in the book I’m writing actually contacted me through my website after she read an article I published in Glamour magazine a couple years ago. So I guess I got a little bit lucky there! Hopefully she’s still interested by the time I’m finally done with the manuscript. Best of luck to you!

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  4. Maia! I agree with Jill P.–this post is medicine! Thanks for finding my post and steering me in the direction of this one. I don’t know how I missed it! My desktops (the physical and the computer) swim with agent query letters, agent research, book proposal components, essays to submit for publication AND the actual manuscript, so it’s not surprising some important things fall through the cracks.

    Wasn’t there a time in the not so distant past when writers could just write? This too often feels like a game.

    You’re a terrific writer! Congrats on being published in Glamour! Keep strong and keep sending your work out. We can do this!

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