Friday, November 23, 2012

On Write Support: Flatlining

Columnist Donna Alward is back with her monthly check-up – and a month that ended up being a bit of hard going….
In April I’m giving a workshop at a conference. The workshop is titled “Keep Calm and Carry On: Keeping Your Sanity in an Ever-Changing Industry”. On one hand, I feel like a bit of a fraud taking on this topic because this fall has tested me and I haven’t always come out on the “Keep Calm” end of the stick.

On the other hand, as one of my fave tv shows quotes: Only those who’ve been bitten by the snake can tell you how it feels. And so the way I’m choosing to look at it is this: if your career has always been smooth, with no bumps or roadblocks in it, then your sanity has never been tested. It’s only if you’ve experienced doubt, rejection, and yes, even opportunities that you can say Hey, I was tested and I came through in one piece and only lost a few brain cells.

You’re probably wondering now where this is all coming from.

November has been a bear. On the home front, I have a family member who is ill. Not much I can do from where I am, but there’s that little bit of worry just the same. I’ve been incredibly busy with my girls – the school volleyball season ended up being pretty hectic. Between practices and games and tournaments, I’ve done a LOT of driving. This past weekend alone, I spent 18 hours sitting in a gym and that doesn’t include driving time.  I’ve been trying to NaNo my next book for Harlequin Romance, I’ve had 2 books release (Sleigh Ride with the Rancher at the first of the month, Into The Fire on the 13th) and I had booked a lot of promo for that. I did 2 rounds of edits on a novella. I’m expecting proofs for my July book to hit my inbox at any moment.
That would be enough to test any writer, I think. It’s hard juggling home and work at the best of times.

But then I got news I’ve been waiting for and it wasn’t news of the good kind. Remember that “big” project I was working on? I’ve blogged about it a few times this year – finishing it, editing it, revising it as per my agent’s feedback, and the anxiety about sending it out. Well, it got rejected.
The editor/house where we’d sent it was my first choice. I’ll be totally honest and admit that this would have been a dream situation for me, so the stakes were pretty high. And so while I was fairly logical when I first got the news that it wasn’t going forward, I’ll confess that the disappointment set in later. And it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m glad I finally know one way or another. But anyone reading this who has had a project rejected knows what I mean when I say I’ve grieved a little over the door being shut. I’ve had stories rejected before – lots of them, as it happens - and I know that some rejections hurt worse than others. This is one of the big ones.

So what have I done this week?
First up, I realized I needed to take some time to refill my well. How do I know? Well, when I can’t even read because I feel like if I have to look at ONE MORE STORY (even if it’s not my own) I’m going to scream, I know I need to step away. I also know that I have a process to dealing with rejection and it’s called allowing myself to feel crappy for a few days. It’s all right to do that as long as you DO move past it (and I always do, usually more determined than ever).

Moreover, I need to think about the comments that came with the rejection and decide how I want to proceed. Remember when I used the words doubt, rejection and opportunities up above? I’m dealing with all three. Rejection often breeds doubt and the crows come cawing. But I also know this is not the end for this story, so I have to look at my options – and there are lots of them for writers these days, which is great - and decide what step I want to take next. It is not an easy decision, because there are pros and cons to everything. Even having options can be stressful.
In some ways, on Friday afternoon things sort of flatlined.

Now, though, I’ve been jumpstarted. We’ll call it a career defibrillator. And it’s because I finally saw past my disappointment to one important idea. It’s the idea around which I’ve built my workshop. It’s my career philosophy. And it’s from David Foster’s book, HITMAN.
"Keep the blinders on - the road to success is straight, not full of curves."

Here’s the thing. This principle takes all the noise and makes it simple. I know my goal. Everything I do should take me closer to that goal. So what I need to ask myself is what decision keeps me on that straight course? He also says that the things you say no to are often as important or more important than those you say yes to.
For what it’s worth, I don’t have an answer yet, but at least I’ve concentrated my thinking so my head’s in the right place. And know what? Once I “got my head right” (as Tony Horton says), my sanity came trickling back, no Xanax required.

Hmm. Maybe I’m the right person to give this workshop after all. J
See you next month,


Donna’s latest Harlequin release is SLEIGH RIDE WITH THE RANCHER, book 2 in the Holiday Miracles trilogy with Fiona Harper and Shirley Jump.

And if you’re into something a little hotter, check out her latest Samhain novella, INTO THE FIRE, book 3 in her First Responders series!


  1. You know what's at the end of that straight course? The bullseye! Hugs, Fi x

  2. It is in retrospect that the road seems straight. And it is NEVER smooth.
    When God close a door, somewhere he opens a window, but that makes for Hell in the Hallways of life. May this one be short.

  3. If rejection ever stops stinging, it's probably time to for me to quit because it means I wasn't 100% invested in the project. If I can't love my own babies, how can anyone else? :-)

  4. Enjoyed your blog Donna - and I can't wait to see what you do with this story. Don't give up on it.

  5. Great post, Donna. I think the grieving part you mentioned resonates strongest with me. Do that and the clarity always follows. Good luck with it.

  6. I'm sure there is a brilliant future waiting for this story, Donna! Looking back, my biggest disappointments (at the time) later turned out to hold the seeds of something much better. Remembering that helps now when things don't go the way I'd like them to.

  7. Sorry about the R, Donna. I'm sure you'll find a home for this story.

  8. Thanks all! Right now I'm working on doing some revising. And I have a fantastic agent. It's nice to know someone is in it with you, you know?

  9. Having a major project rejected is a major let down. Been there and done that. Yet, somehow we manage to come back from such things, how I don't know, and it will remain a mystery.
    My advice? Don't go near if until the pain of rejection is well and thoroughly over. You deserve a break.
    Good luck from the Queen of Rejections.

  10. Hi Donna,
    I'm a big believer in "one door closes, another window opens." I think you will find a great place for this story. And I believe you will find that the journey turned out better than you originally hoped. You are a great role model. Keep your chin up. We are rooting for you!


  11. Great blog, Donna. Always love your candidness. They just weren't the right fit for your story, at this time. Your ST will make readers happy down the road, just like all your other books. And maybe you'll be grateful for the R!

  12. You write beautiful, tender, heartfelt stories, Donna... Never lose sight of that. And thanks for the candid post, this business is so tough - I can always used extra tips on how to survive it.

  13. Donna, I agree with Pam. Things happen for a reason. You'll find a spot for your story, and your readers will find it because they already love your work.