The Rejection Window Part III: Toxic Positivity

One of the big reasons why I stayed in fiction writing as long as I did was the encouragement from my fellow creatives. Little did I know back in the early 2010’s that enthusiasm for my creations amongst fellow authors would not necessarily correlate to same-level enthusiasm among general public readers. If it had, “Vampire Syndrome” would have made it to the multiplexes, or at least Netflix.

From beginning to end, I had always received strong encouragement from my fellow creatives to keep writing. Even if I never made a dime from the books, and failed to get any reviews ever from general public “non-author” readers for years on end, there was a uniform, unwavering chorus of “keep writing”.
And I was asking myself why they keep doing this.

I found the answer on my Facebook wall. An author friend of mine complained that she had tallied up over six hundred rejections, and wanted to quit.
Of course, she received several hundred comments all following the standard “creatives’ party line” to the effect of “keep on querying, don’t give up.”
Why? So she can hit the lofty “thousand rejections” milestone? Or press on even further for an eventual Guinness book world record? 😈

(Highly relevant blockquote from my previous post):

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

Naturally, I had to step in and give my two cents:
Obviously, the Big Five do not want what you’re writing. This in no way impunes you or the quality of your work, this is just the reality that your work does not meet the Big Five’s narrow formulae for what books they think will be “successful”. Keep on self-publishing and don’t waste any more time with further querying, or you will soon literally run out of people to reject your work. The phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ entered the cultural lexicon for a reason, and it’s fitting here.”

People who actually care about you will not give you sugar-coated advice when they know better otherwise. They will tell the truth as they see it, even when it seems blunt and/or harsh, because their wishes for you to be your best, and do your best, are sincere.

So why would a couple hundred other authors keep encouraging her to query, even after six hundred rejections, when I’m certain they’re all aware of the harsh realities of the publishing industry?

Toxic Positivity.

Also known as “avoidance coping”.

Relentless focus on positivity isn’t just ineffective.
Research has shown that it’s actually harmful.

Such as encouraging someone already frustrated over six hundred rejections to accumulate a few hundred more rejections “for her collection.”

Encouragement is normally a wonderful thing, but there are times when we all better off when we buckle down, ask the difficult questions, deal with the difficult answers, and let the deceased horses rest in peace.

10 Comments

  1. You know that common sense isn’t really as common as one would think, especially for people who choose to have their hearts trampled on over and over again.
    I learned quickly that I didn’t have what it takes to eternally strive to please someone with whom I had no connection. Actually I didn’t have the desire to try to fit into a little box of published authors.
    I wrote out of need as well as desire. But the need to help my husband heal from his trauma in Vietnam, well outweighed the need to slip through narrow subject selections in order to be accepted. Besides I didn’t have the luxury of time.
    It has long been the norm for one to have name recognition in order to find favor with the big 5, or possibly to know someone who knows someone.
    To me getting the words onto pages of a book was the most demanding need, and getting Mike to talk about his trauma and beginning the healing process was the means to an end that I was looking for. In my case, it all worked out well, by book three Mike had released much of the experiences of battle and loss and was doing so much better that the last three books were icing on the cake.
    I guess in reality I was never looking for the brass ring of fame and fortune, I was trying to help Mike heal so he could live his best life despite the war. But, had I been fortunate enough to be accepted and to grab that brass ring, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been ecstatic.

    • God Bless you and Mike, Andrea! My dad (Marine) and uncles (Army) served in the 1964-68 era, but my paternal grandfather (WWII) was by far the one who was most traumatized by his war experiences. 53 B-17 missions over Europe, so I’m lucky I even knew him personally. He was the most loving grandpa anyone could want, but the horrors he saw turned him into a raging alcoholic (who even drank while we grandkids were visiting). I wish someone had been able to do for Granddad what you accomplished for Mike.

      On Facebook, one of my friends asked us “What was the most important song in your life?”
      My older uncle replied, “The Animals, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”. I was in the Army, 1968. No explanation needed.” Especially considering that same year his younger brother took a few of Charlie’s bullets and woke up stateside with my Grandma and a Purple Heart by his bedside. So glad I have both my uncles still…

      • I’m glad you have both your uncles aw well. Mike was there in 1969 and was picked by a LRRP team to be an RTO. LLRP is Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and RTO is the guy who carries the radio and calls in artillery and air strikes when needed. 5-man teams who spend their time searching for the enemy, capturing and taking them back to HQ for questioning, every Recon scout had a bounty on their heads because they were so effective in locating the enemy and taking prisoners. Mike’s trauma came from a mission that went sideways, his good friend and team leader was killed and they were surrounded by VC. Mike called in for airlift and was told the zone was too hot, they had to hold on until morning. They could hear the VC all around them, so they set a perimeter of claymores and prepared to die. Thankfully a chopper pilot heard Mike’s call and defied orders and came to get them. He said he has no idea how they made it off that mountain after loading Chief’s body on the chopper. There were tracer rounds coming at them from all sides when they got back down the mountain. No one could ever make me believe God is a myth and I’m sure the four men that lived through that night would agree. I can’t imagine the hours of terror they went through after being told no one was coming for them, let alone the trauma from losing a man who was like a brother to him. There’s a lot more to the story, this is a condensed version. He would never talk about it and the nightmares when he would scream Chief’s name were horrible. He was afraid he would hurt me when I tried to comfort him and wake him. Truthfully, I was afraid sometimes too. Sometimes he didn’t recognize me when he was in the trauma of that night. I thank God every day that I was able to get him to open up and release those demons, and I did it by telling him I wanted to write a book and asked if he would help me. He knew I always wanted to write and he agreed, and the rest is history.
        So my mission was accomplished and I have a loyal group of readers who nag me for another novel. I think I am satisfied with the way things turned out although who wouldn’t prefer to be famous?

  2. You know Daven, you and me and many of the authors we worked with at PDMI, have a distinct honor in knowing that we have worked on and finished books that are as good, if not better, than many of those published by the big 5. And they will never know how many of our books would have been made into movies and made them, as well as us, a boatload of money. It’s sad for us but it serves them right for not having the foresight to recognize the uniqueness of something that has never been done before.

    • Three PDMI authors *did* manage to get TV development deals based on their PDMI books. Even though none of the shows sold, that’s still an impressive statement as to the quality and originality of the books PDMI offered.

  3. Good grief. I quit querying after I was rejected by all six of the big six (this shows when it was that there were still 6 then) and decided then to self publish. 600 is just crazy.

    • I do think it helps to set some reasonable goals as to what one wishes to accomplish. If this author had set a basic goal in advance of, say “If I get one hundred rejections, I will no longer query the Big Five.” Then she could have expended all her efforts from there on writing and KDP, instead of the massive amount of time it must have taken to have queried five hundred more times. 😈

  4. Yeaaah, I, too, get tired of all the positivity sometimes.

    There are different reasons for why one doesn’t get picked up, reviewed, et cetera, and one reason could very well be that that material just isn’t good enough. That the writer just isn’t a writer. And that’s a hard call. But it can typically be realized by analysis: if you write something that nobody really likes—and I mean *consistently*(providing you get HONEST feedback)—you really might want to consider a career change. How much struggle do you want to put up with? How much devotion of energy to such an endeavor do you want to continue expending? There has got to be something else you’re good at—and there is. We just have to be honest with ourselves.

    And some writers are also really not good, but still get picked up. Again, we’ve hoed this row before.

    It all comes down to being honest with yourself, your abiltiies, and be willing to change that which just ain’t working.

    Nice post, Daven—I like the direction from which you came!

    • Thanks, Frank! Yeah, after I saw her FB post about her 600 rejections, and then almost 200 comments telling her to keep on querying (!!), I went “Normally, positive reinforcement is a good thing, but when all these people presumably know damn well she has no chance at the Big Five, telling her to go on querying is basically lying to her that she still has a chance, and if they think that’s a positive thing to do, then they’re lying to themselves.”


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