March 27, 2012

How Do You Handle Disappointments?

Depressed girl

Over a thousand writers stared at their phones yesterday, willing them to ring.  Only around 150 of them received the call they were waiting for.  Yesterday the Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced the Golden Heart and RITA finalists.

One of the largest writing organizations in the world released the names of the finalists for their biggest contests in the most successful genre of book publishing.  That’s a lot of superlatives.

The atmosphere on Twitter for those following the hashtags was a combination of stress and party.  Noelle Pierce summed up the situation:

“The romance world is aflurry, as #RWA announces the #RITA and #GoldenHeart finalists. This is like Oscar nomination day. Only with books.”

All the writers knew it was a long shot, especially for those entering the hyper-competitive categories.  But still…  They hoped.

They hoped for the same reason we might buy a lottery ticket.  Sure, the chances of winning the lottery are minuscule, but we still hope it’ll happen to us.  If we didn’t have that hope, we wouldn’t buy that ticket.  Similarly, writers wouldn’t enter these two contests, which don’t give feedback, if they didn’t hope to win.

The writers probably tried not to think about it.  They tried to distract themselves.  They thought they were doing a good job of not thinking about it until their other phone—the number that RWA doesn’t even have—rang, and their heart rate shot through the roof.  *ahem*  Not that I’d know anything about that reaction.

In the end, most of the writers waiting for that phone to ring never got the call.  I know I didn’t.  And even though I certainly wasn’t expecting to final, it was still a bummer to lose that hope.

So I am genuinely happy for all the finalists.  I’ll cheer for them at the big awards show during the RWA conference, and I’m looking forward to giving them congratulatory hugs in person.  But I also had to find a way to deal with my internal disappointment.

Chocolate, Silver Linings, New Goals, and a New Outlook

Sometimes a situation is simply a bummer.  It happens to everyone.  The only thing we can control is how we handle it.

I tweeted congratulations to all the winners, and my family (being the wonderful, supportive family they are) took me out for dinner and chocolate frosted doughnuts.  (Sometimes life cries out for chocolate, yes?)

Then I looked at the silver lining in not finaling.  Now I don’t have a killer deadline for the edited full manuscript.  My internal deadline for the revision edit can be more reasonable.

Finally, I came up with a new set of goals.  Many of us feel better if we’re working toward something, so I planned my revision schedule.  That was all good until I thought about the step that would come after that.  Querying.

I suck at queries.  Really and truly suck.  And I would have loved to be able to write the magic words “Golden Heart Finalist” in the subject line of my sucky query, but no…  *sigh*

That’s when I realized why I was so bummed about not finaling.  What I really wanted wasn’t the accolades (although, sure, they would have been nice too) but for the publishing path to be easier.

Yeah, right.  We can all stop laughing now.  Drafting, editing, querying, publishing, marketing…  Whether we traditionally publish or self-publish, it’s all hard.  Until it isn’t.  Once we finish one of those stages, we know we can do it again the next time.

The hard part is not knowing if we’ll ever succeed, if we’ll ever finish that draft, make those revisions work, find an agent, etc.  The “not knowing” can drive our issues with self-doubt insane.

The interesting thing is now that I’ve recognized the source of my disappointment, I don’t feel as bad.  Life is funny that way.  *smile*

Congratulations to all the Golden Heart and RITA Finalists!

How do you deal with disappointment (chocolate, alcohol, or something else)?  Do you look for silver linings?  Do you buckle down and move forward?  Does understanding your disappointment help you face it?

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Awww, so sorry to hear that you didn’t final, Jami! When it comes to disappointments, I do buckle down and move forward. I have also come to see how rejection is often a gift even though we may not know it at the time.

Sending virtual chocolates!

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Shah Wharton

Hey, sorry for that. Great you could turn it around and smile about it though. I believe to be a writer a layer of thick skin (or ten) is required to cope with all sorts of negativity however, so its all training 🙂

Hugs. X

Jen J. Danna

I’m sorry you didn’t final, but good for you for having such a great attitude about it! And good for you for setting new goals. Yes, querying can be hard and scary, but let me tell you that not only did I query, but I was signed from that query. I never met my agent in person before signing (still haven’t actually, but will at a conference in June), and I didn’t come with a reference. You don’t have to have an in; your writing will speak for itself. You CAN do this! As far as your query goes, write it now and then let it sit, then tweak it, then tweak it again. Mine actually changed through the querying process. And if you’d like another set of eyes on your query, I’d be happy to take a look at it and share any tips I’ve got. Good luck!

Angela Quarles

I’m so sorry Jami! I was eagerly awaiting the results on behalf of you and two others (not in your category) and when I saw it posted I scanned for your name and theirs. They didn’t make it either and they’re awesome writers as well. My lesson here that I took from it is that this is soooo competitive that even awesome writers don’t make it. I applaud how you handled it, I hope I can weather it as well as you when my turn comes… I think the lesson you got from this is so true. I also try to look at disappointments like this as tests of my will power and I try to picture all the others getting the same disappointment and quitting. If I keep pushing forward (by continuing to improve my craft and putting myself out there), the field gets smaller 🙂 I saw one writer who said that they were only going to query 2-3 agents before they gave up and went ‘on their own’. I just shook my head…

Heather Day Gilbert

So sorry, Jami. Yes, that’s where the rubber meets the road and ugly jealousy rears its head up, when others win those contests. It does help to go over and congratulate them nonetheless, but you can’t stop thinking it should’ve been YOUR entry that broke the mold and made the judges gasp at the sheer brilliance of it.

I think it’s great that you took stock of your goals and re-evaluated them. That’s a productive response. I think sometimes a little wallow in chocolate helps, but the best thing is to scrounge up that determination ONE MORE TIME and get moving on something new. Or at least revising or re-querying that something old!


I do my best to convert disappointments into learning experiences.

For example, when I utterly screwed up serializing my one novel in almost every way possible, I compiled a blog post on how (not) to serialize a novel, wherein I discussed what I did wrong and what I’d do differently the next time.

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

“And I would have loved to be able to write the magic words “Golden Heart Finalist” in the subject line of my sucky query, but no… *sigh*”

*inserts MS Word comment to above line* Surely you mean to imply “not yet” and not just a “no”. Because having read your GH entry, you were robbed.

Yeah yeah yeah, I’m trying to beta read your disappointments away. Is it helping? 🙂

Sorry the world seems to want to add more words and conflict to your publishing journey. We’re all pulling for your very likeable character & hope to see the pacing be increased.



Buffy Armstrong

I was bummed when I didn’t see your name on the finalist list, so I can’t even begin to imagine how you felt. You should be proud of yourself that you had the courage to enter at all. There are so many writers (myself included) that are too afraid to enter such a prestigious contest. And now you’ll get some feedback (in the form of a score card) which could be very useful to you in the future.

I’ve had a recent disappointment. I’m proud to say I handled it like a Big Girl. I gorged on pulled pork and brisket. Oh, and I can’t forget the cheese grits. Barbeque always makes me feel better! I should have suckered my husband out of an expensive meal (and a nice bottle of wine) now that I think about it. I’ll keep that in mind for my next disappointment. 🙂

Riley Murphy
Riley Murphy

Aww, Jami, sorry about that. *hugs*
NOW get back on that bike, young lady, and ride like the wind to the finish! You got this!



Sorry you didn’t final, Jami, but there’s always next year! I didn’t even enter, and I was anxious enough watching the results, so I can’t imagine actually waiting for the phone call. I’m happy for the finalists, and offer virtual *hugs* to everyone else.

Now that you mention the number of PNR entries, though, I might have to rethink entering mine next year. 😀 Maybe I’ll finish my historical instead. Anyway, keep going, and know that one day, the phone will ring! (<–how I get through disappointment: asinine optimism).

Brooklyn Ann

I was too scared to enter this year….

Adriana Ryan

((Hugs)) What a nice family you have! 😀 There’s never a bad time for chocolate. I like to move forward with my goals, too. My personal motto is: There WILL be a time. So if you didn’t final this time, there’s going to come a time when you will. You just have to wait for it. And in the meantime, you may as well write! 😀 You sound like you’re doing well. ((Hugs)) again!


It WAS slightly disappointing, wasn’t it? You tell yourself not to get all hopeful, because really, you slid in right on the deadline (well, I did, anyway) and…but…still…


I tell myself I’ve got a couple of other contest results to look forward to that aren’t as competitive but still good for the path to publishing (like RWASD’s Spring Into Romance Contest). And really, I’m just getting started. I’m a baby, frankly, in this whole writing thing, barely crawling. I think I’d feel worse if I’d been at it longer and had a longer string of disappointments behind me.

I feel like I handle rejection better than most-looking for a new job for two years without so much as a single nibble of interest will do that to you. When it gets really bad, though, I drown myself in Pepsi and romance novels, although sometimes I go to the gym (like Elle Woods said, it’s hard to be depressed when you’re running on endorphins!). But you’ll usually find me on my couch, throwing a pity party and watching Disney classics for the hundredth time.

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

You’ve got the guts to enter contests like that, putting your work up to be judged. That’s a win. And you’ve the guts to keep on writing.

I tell myself that ever disappointment is an opportunity to learn, and I try to do so. Still, its sometimes a downer.

Personally, I hate those ‘win or not’ situations like contests. They’re hard to learn from, as you’ve very little feedback.

I’m guessing the only good advice I could guess at would be ‘keep your eyes on the real prize…publishing your work.’

Renee Schuls-Jacobson

I cry in my car.

For real.

Nancy S. Thompson

A year ago when I received my first rejection on a full, I consoled myself with my first-ever shot of tequila. It didn’t help. So I swore I wouldn’t do that again until I landed an agent. But I did one better & landed a publisher instead, but only after a full & long year of constant critiques & revisions. I was often down about my lack of progress, but I kept my head down & my eye on the prize: publication. When the offer for publication came, it was so sudden & out of the blue, I honestly didn’t know what to do. My experience proves hard work and not giving up pays off. You just never know when the skies will open & lightning will strike. So no matter how many rejections you accumulate, it just takes one yes.

Gene Lempp

You tried, and that, in and of itself, is success. As others, from Nancy up above to Stephen King is only takes one yes – and in this moment is the motivation to continue striving forward towards your goal. Chocolate was a healthy response 🙂

Disappointment is a fact of life and without it we would never be able to fully enjoy moments of success and accomplishment. Acknowledge the feeling and move forward – it’s really the only way to go.

Congrats to all the finalists – I’d bet the secrets of success are written within the pages of your most excellent stories.

Fiona Ingram

I think you have handled your disappointment so well. I like to hope there is something bigger and better around the corner for you. A couple of weeks ago I had a severe disappointment. A prestigious (very!) UK literary agency asked for 2 copies of my (award-winning but self-published) MG novel. (BTW, I did not query them, they contacted me!) At some expense I bought my copies (sigh!), and sent via courier to London. (I live in South Africa so not cheap) They seemed so keen. I was so excited I almost told the world but I only told a couple of close friends. After 2 months they wrote back and declined. This time no personalised signture to end the letter, just a logo. A Logo? Who the bleep is a logo? Anyway, I cried like a baby. I almost, yes, almost gave up writing there and then. Sense prevailed and the next day I dragged myself to my computer and decided to do some other author a favour and pick up with my book reviews. I read an incredible self-help book – not really self help, more “how I helped myself after having everything and losing it all.” The author asked questions of his readers at the end of each chapter about the significance of what they do in life. What is important – what you do or the deeper significance of it. He asked his readers to define success. I realised I could not stop writing. The up…  — Read More »

C.L. Dyck

“The hard part is not knowing if we’ll ever succeed, if we’ll ever finish that draft, make those revisions work, find an agent, etc. The “not knowing” can drive our issues with self-doubt insane.”

This. I’m utterly grateful for a critique partner who gets this about me and is adamant and faithful about dragging me back off that ledge. Having someone who’s spent years on the inside of my writing brain, looking out at the world with me (and vice versa) has been the major factor in keeping me from quitting. Being alone with my doubts is what’s stalled me the most in the past.

Thanks for this post. It really resonated with me.

Cheryl Reifsnyder

I’ve made it a practice to celebrate every rejection or “failure”–because I realized I wasn’t putting myself out there because I was afraid to fail. It’s amazing how a little chocolate can change your conditioning. Those “no thank you’s” are SO much easier to handle when you’ve got a chocolate-infused plan in place.

It also helps knowing that I’m not alone–thanks to writers like you who share the downs as well as the ups. Thank you!

Todd Moody

Hi Jami! So sorry you didn’t get a call. I’m rooting for you!

The good thing is there is always another contest or another chance to get published and I’m sure your writing is improving with each effort. I’d like to think mine is, but throwing it out there to be judged is a big step a lot of writers never get to.

The way I deal with rejection is to keep my expectations low and hope for the best and if it doesn’t work out I just remember that you learn more from screwing up than you do from success most of the time. Chocolate is always good too! 😉


[…] Smart Writer Blog reminds us of all those New Years goals we set, and says that this is a good time for assessing how far we’ve come and finding some creative renewal. If one of your goals was more time to write, Jessica Strawser explains how to find, rather than make, time for writing. Bob Mayer talks about the other writer’s enemy: feeling like a fraud. And since the writing business is fraught with rejection and criticism, Jami Gold asks: how do you handle disappointments? […]

Angela Ackerman

Sorry you didn’t final but as you say the hard truth is that everyone can’t be a finalist, and let’s face it, there are a lot of great stories that get passed over (including yours!) So don’t give up, and instead pat yourself on the back for being in the game. You’re a professional, and this is simply a road bump badge that hardens your shell as you press forward. 🙂

Those who keep working at it succeed. We see it over and over each and every day. 🙂 Your time is coming, Jami!



[…] Smart Writer Blog reminds us of all those New Years goals we set, and says that this is a good time for assessing how far we’ve come and finding some creative renewal. If one of your goals was more time to write, Jessica Strawser explains how to find, rather than make, time for writing. Bob Mayer talks about the other writer’s enemy: feeling like a fraud. And since the writing business is fraught with rejection and criticism, Jami Gold asks: how do you handle disappointments? […]

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