Getting rejected by "the one"...

...agent. "The one" agent. Which in itself is a no-no, I hear, because you aren't supposed to have one particular agent on whom you place all of your literary hopes and dreams. Which I'm all about, and I actually don't have one. I have several agents I have queried, and of course I love them all. But every once in a while, I've stumbled across an agent that I've felt particularly attached to. An agent I've felt a connection with, one whose bio I've read and about whom I've thought to myself, "Holy cow, she is perfect."

For me. She's perfect for me. There are agents that I think I might mesh better with, agents whose profiles and wish lists seem to say nothing other than, "'Red Rain Boots.' Send us 'Red Rain Boots.'"

So I did. And two of them have rejected me. Cold, hard, form rejection letters that say, as kindly as possible, that they don't think they can represent my novel.

And it hurts. It's soul-crushingly painful. Because it's not just that they're rejected you, which is painful enough in itself. They're rejecting your product, your baby, that thing you've worked on for months and poured literal pieces of your soul into. They're rejecting you without even reading that piece of your soul...

I'm not complaining about the way they do rejections. I understand that agents receive hundreds of queries every week, and goodness, if they had to read partials of every unsolicited manuscript, well...they would probably all quit and then where would aspiring authors be? I'm insanely grateful for agents with open inboxes and a willingness to scan hundreds of query letters, many of which are for projects they have  no interest in. So if any agents happen to be reading this, thank you. You rock.

Of course, it still hurts to get rejected. Especially from someone you thought would be a great match. So what do you do when that happens? How do you pick up and move on to the next? I'm definitely not an expert (although I'm on my way), but here are some small tips you might use to help yourself go onward--whether the rejection is from an agent, a school or a beloved.

  1. Take a moment to grieve This is super important. Any time you receive a disappointment, you have to give yourself time to be sad about it. Let yourself grieve. Take maybe 30 to 45 minutes and revel in your sadness, allowing yourself to experience the emotions battling inside of you.
  2. Turn off the grief Another really important thing is to make sure you don't let your grief run all over you. At some point, you have to turn it off. You have to straighten your shoulders, shake your head, and say, "Okay."
  3. Don't beat yourself up Remind yourself that this is just one person. In the agent world, most of the rejections come with an encouragement to keep trying. And as much as it can seem like that is a condescending pat on the back, it's a reminder that no, not everyone will love your book; but that doesn't mean no one will.
  4. Look for someone (or thing) new The best thing you can do is literally propel yourself forward. Find something else to look forward to, whether that's a new agent you can be excited about, a new future or a new haircut.
  5. Move on Yep, my advice about moving is to just do it. Don't let yourself dwell on it. Don't spend your nights twirling a pen, staring longingly off into the distance, thinking, "Oh, dream agent, if only you had accepted me. We could have gone so far..." Just forget about it. If they offered advice, consider accepting it, but otherwise, take one step forward, then another one, and keep going until you're past it.

Rejection is hard. But it doesn't have to kill you. As our dear Kelly Clarkson once crooned, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." You got this, friend.

Life with bipolar: a PSA

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article for the Collegian, called He is Here, about finding God through whatever trials you're undergoing. And I stand by that. I still believe that you can find God in the midst of whatever the world throws at you. Yet there are still moments when I don't feel that. There are moments when my slight bipolar disorder and severe depression get the best of me. One of those was last night, and because I think I freaked out every soul who was with me in the movie theater when I burst into uncontrollable sobs, this is a PSA, from one sufferer, to everyone who comes into contact with sufferers.

Bipolar, depression, anxiety...they are all insidious mental illnesses that affect a large portion of the population, yet they are still wildly misunderstood. I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of being apathetic, attention-seeking or just plain insane when I was having a breakdown, when in reality I was trying my best to keep it from happening, to keep the attention off of me.

So, last night. It started innocuously: with five-inch heels and a group of friends walking too fast for my new found height. That devolved into sitting at the end of the row in the theater, waiting to watch "Mockingjay: Part 1" (a very excellent film, by the way), and, as I said before, bursting into uncontrollable sobs.

That's what happens when you have a mental illness. Little things are blown out of proportion, and from one second to another, in between steps even, you can go from being perfectly fine, even happy, to the throes of despair. It has nothing to do with you--you, the friend of the sufferer, did not cause this. I cannot stress that enough. It's because of chemicals going haywire; it's because of angry words spoken to a first grader about themselves; it's any combination of events that came together in one devastating concoction to form what can only be spoken of as mental torture.

Last night as I sat in the theater, I felt like my whole world was collapsing. I felt my gut squeezing, my future floating before my eyes, my friendships vanishing in the wink of an eye. Once my defenses were down, every negative thought I've had about myself came rushing back, overcoming me.

That's another thing that happens with mental illness. Something as simple as a stray glance can break someone down so much so that every negative thought, word or whisper they have ever experienced will come screaming back into their mind.

So, again, it's not your fault. But what can you do when a friend, acquaintance or stranger is obviously going through something like this? It kind of depends on the person, but since I know there are other people like me I'll tell you what works for me and let you go from that.

  1. Be there. Put your arm around me, hug me, say it's going to be okay.
  2. Don't blame yourself. If I don't respond (which I probably won't), don't think it has anything to do with you. I'm in mental turmoil and it's hard to step out of that for any amount of time. I promise I'm not mad at you...and if I am, it's only because my rational capabilities have broken down momentarily.
  3. Make a joke. If I laugh, I'm happy.
  4. Distract me. Talk about something innocuous...like popcorn. I'm telling myself I'm the worst kind of human, but popcorn is always a pleasant thing to think about instead.
  5. Be there. If you're there in the moment, and the next day, and the next, I can't even tell you how much that will mean to me.

This has been a PSA to everyone who comes into contact with me (and others who suffer from mental illnesses). There will be bad moments. There will be dark times. And while you can help in the moment, you can't fix me or anyone else. You can only love me as best as you can. I promise I see it and I appreciate it and you are helping me go forward.

There's one more really important thing: if you can't do any of the above, for your own mental health, don't. Because you can help, yes, but you can't save me. And it is absolutely not worth your own health to try.