Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest post: “Every No Brings You Closer to Yes”

Today I'm honored to welcome the always side-splitting Kristen Lippert-Martin. Kristen writes YA and blogs over at A Rock in My Pocket. Her tweets are astoundingly funny and you need to be reading everything she produces, because she's a dynamo. Also, she herself is on maternity leave! Yes!

I'm honored and pleased to welcome her as my first Maternity Leave Guest Blogger ( MLGB).

“Every No Brings You Closer to Yes”
by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Perhaps, like me, you have a fellow writer friend who says chipper, inspirational things like this. And he or she says them in a well-meaning attempt to keep you motivated. Which is, you know, nice.

It’s just… come on. Every no brings you closer to yes? Gawd. I feel like I should gargle with bourbon after that phrase leaves my mouth. I’m sorry, but this sort of knee-jerk optimism brings out the defeatist curmudgeon in me. Seriously, when I first heard someone say this I thought, OK, what brand of cold medicine are you are taking, and did you have to register your name and address at the pharmacist’s desk when you bought it?

Who thinks like this? (I don’t.) Where do they teach this stuff? (I’m guessing maybe writers conferences or at training seminars for people who do time-share presentations.)

I had a discussion one time with an aspiring author who asked me if I’d ever heard of something called “The Secret?” And I thought, oh, lordy, here it comes. She’s going to try to recruit me into some cult or something, and believe me, I am the last woman on earth who you’d want as a sister-wife. But then she explained it’s this approach to things wherein you make your dreams manifest by behaving as if the thing you want to happen has already happened. I said, “Oh. OK, sure. I’ve heard of that. Although when I heard this concept explained to me previously it was known as ‘being in denial.’”

I must ask what kind of crazy business we’ve gotten ourselves into that we must engage in these acts of mental contortion in order to not pitch ourselves onto the shift key and end it all. How are we to strike a balance between realistic assessments of our work and the kind of benign, dreamy hope that puts rings of imaginary bluebirds around our heads to egg us on with their lilting warbles as we write?

Well, let’s get back to that “every no brings you closer to yes” idea, and I’ll tell you.

I would be willing to concede that maybe – MAYBE – this is a concept that might be true. BUT, let me stipulate that it’s not true in the sense that these ultra-optimistic sorts might say it, while still in the afterglow of a motivational speaking engagement. Like, if you just keep going for long enough, you’ll find a bag of magic beans at the end of the unicorn’s rainbow, and you will transform into a best-selling author. Sorry, no. If you're peddling that idea, you can take your seven dwarfs and move on to the next sucker.

Every no brings you closer to a yes is true only because there’s nothing like stinging, eviscerating rejection to make you work harder and do better.

Every time someone said no to my manuscript, I improved it. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And what was more, I knew I’d improved it, and weirdly enough, I was ultimately glad that I’d heard no, because I simply would not have reworked my story otherwise. Oh, sure, maybe after enough time passed, I might have gotten there through less harsh, painful, and discouraging means, but as we’re all hoping to get published in this lifetime and not posthumously, you’ve got to admit, rejection can be quite the short-cut to revelation.

Every no brings you closer to yes is true when you are willing to face the one thing you don’t want to believe about your work. Whatever hard truth that may be.

When you have a history of digesting rejection and asking, please, sir, may I have some more, then you can open up the window and let those bluebirds of happiness in. Heck, spread birdseed around your desk while you’re at it. We NEED those little birdies to keep us going. Believe me, I know.

That being said, you’re never going to find me wandering around saying “every no brings you closer to yes,” and if you do, know that I've gone over to the dark side. Or the light side. Or whatever is the side that encourages you to always keep bottles of bourbon handy for gargling purposes.

Thanks Kristen! Note to readers: when Kristen sent me this post and asked me what I thought of it, I said "I loved it because I too believe every no bringing you closer to a yes is bs. Every no is a no." Kristen just says it much more engagingly than I do. - Sierra

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