Today, I listened to the 88 Cups of Tea podcast, Episode 155, an interview with Julie Dao on pushing past rejection.
Pro Tip: “Get back to loving writing.”
“You can be the best writer ever, you could write the greatest story, and still be told no over, and over, and over. So you have to separate that being a writer and being an author is not always about talent – it’s about perseverance. It’s about wanting something more than anything you’ve ever wanted before and letting that desire to overcome help you push past all of the rejections.”
This interview begins with Julie’s story, her path to becoming published.
I won’t delve too deeply into that part of the interview, except to say that writing fanfiction had made her feel like becoming an author was actually possible.
In this one respect, my (short) journey mirrors Julie’s. I doubt I’d be brave enough to attempt novel writing had it not been for the incredible support I received from fanfic readers and writers.
It’s an amazing feeling having people you don’t know love your work and clamour for more.
Julie didn’t have an easy go of it. She’d been writing for 8 years before she landed an agent, who she met through PidMad. She’d written 6 full novels before her her first novel was purchased by a publisher.
The hardest part for her was the year just prior to an agent offering to represent her work, as she had 15 agents sit with her full manuscript for over a year. She became depressed and started thinking about giving up on her dream.
Julie hit rock bottom when an agent asked for an R & R (a revise and resubmit). The agent called, didn’t offer representation, but gave Julie ideas for revisions. Julie took all those ideas to heart. She worked for 6 months on revisions. Then, after all that work, the agent rejected the story because she didn’t like it anymore.
During that year of hell, Julie found that all of the marketing parts of becoming an author had worn her down. She decided to get back to loving writing.
Julie explained, “Authors have to be marketers, but writers can just love words.”
“Being a writer and being an author isn’t always about talent. You have to separate that out. It’s about perseverance. It’s about wanting something more than anything you’ve ever wanted before. And … [use] that desire to push back all of the rejections. Because we all get rejections. No one is agented on the first try or published on the first try.”
Julie said that things got a lot easier after she realized that “rejection is an inevitable part of our business. Once I learned that being told ‘no’ is a natural and normal thing, it became easier to keep pushing on.”
While those 15 agents sat with her work for over a year, she decided to stop querying altogether. She took time to write a story just for herself. And that was the mindset that she was in when she wrote the book that was eventually published.
Julie shared that one of her mistakes was in thinking that it was smooth sailing after she had representation. The book that scored her an agent wasn’t purchased by a publisher. She received 30 rejections from publishers in the months that followed.
So, even though she’d gotten in the door, there was another series of doors that kept slamming in her face.
She said it’s incredibly important to write something for yourself first. A story you love, even if no one else ever wants it.
Julie closed the interview with this advice: “The day you give up could be the day before your dream comes true. Another day could bring something completely different. Each day is full of possibilities that you don’t know existed before.”
“So when you go to bed, and you feel dejected, just remember that the next day could bring something new. Be proud of what you’re writing and have confidence in your own work.”