At some point throughout your career as a writer, you will face rejection. Sometimes that comes in the form of losing a job or client. The income was there, and suddenly it isn’t. It’s common. That doesn’t make it easy.
Here’s how to respond when this form of tragedy strikes your writing life.
1. Enter crisis management mode before the adrenaline wears off.
You’re fresh off bad news, and your first instinct might be to shut everything down, go outside, and let the fresh air cleanse your emotions. (Or maybe your go-to response is to climb into bed and hide — whatever works for you.) But it’s not time to fall apart yet!
Though you may be emotional, you’re also running on adrenaline. This is a shock to your system, and your fight-or-flight response is kicking in. Take advantage of it. It may work out in your favor.
Reach out to any contacts you may have that could help you find work. Give your resume a quick check. Write down a few of your next steps, even if you don’t act on them right away.
Have a plan in place. Because this adrenaline will wear off, and if you don’t have a post-crash game plan, it’s going to be that much harder to get back on your feet. Possible, but unnecessarily challenging.
2. Jot down a few ideas for things you might write next.
Again, we’re capitalizing on the “oh no, I just lost a source of income” adrenaline rush here. This is not fun! But the writers who succeed in their respective fields are the ones who have ideas ready to go when they’re ready to crush it.
Before you take the (very necessary) time to sit with your feelings — that part comes next — partake in some good old-fashioned idea generation. Make a list of future pitches, story ideas, even good potential candidates for future submissions.
When you come back to your desk ready to take on the world, you’re going to need a place to start. Give your future self that place now.
3. Give yourself time and space to grieve.
Losing a job, client, gig, income source — whatever your particular loss may be — hurts.
It doesn’t matter how successful you are, how long you’ve been at this game, how tough of a skin you think you’ve generated over time. Not feeling wanted, needed, or appreciated is a real and common human fear. Nobody likes it. And it’s the exact way most people feel when they’re, in one way or another, removed from a writing project.
In order to jump back into the fray — writing is hard enough without the seemingly constant need to compete against other writers for work — you first need to allow yourself time and space to grieve what you’ve lost.
Take some time away from your desk. As much as you can afford. Spend time with your family. Read a good book or two. Instead of your goals, focus on the now. The things that matter the most to you — the things that likely won’t disappear in an instant. These are the reasons you’re working so hard. When you go back to work, remember them.
This may last an evening, a few days, or a week. But then it’s time to get back to writing.
When that time comes, you may not feel ready. Write anyway. When the least ideal outcome is the one we’re facing, the only way through it is to keep going — even when it’s hard.
Meg Dowell is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.