Monday, February 01, 2010

Rejections as Therapy - Opportunities to Think Positive

Pretty DirtyAs my little nightowls retire to their nests, the home becomes my silent domain again. In the quiet, I can finally think.

Tonight I am thinking about the manuscript I finished on Saturday. I polished it throughout the day, then again at night. I felt confident enough about the story to email it to the agent who gave me suggestions last time. I don't know why, but this feels different than my magazine and web page gigs. The funny thing is that the manuscript is a short, wee sprig of words. My last article was nine times longer, a veritable tree in comparison. What's to worry about? It's not as if I've never heard "No thanks" before.

In the past, however, I would worry. Adults with ADHD tend to have low self-esteem, robbing them of the tools they need to succeed. I'll be writing about this problem over at ADDaboy! later this week. Thankfully, I'm not having a problem with self-esteem. I'm actually quite excited. When I received the rejection for #tkahk four weeks ago, I mused at what a different person I had become.

For comparison, I'll start with a rejection I received from Dragon Magazine seventeen years ago. I had just finished a fourteen month gig as a partner in a fantasy gaming company. I was the artist. Our layout dictated that all our images fit within a 5"x5" area. Since I had made dozens of illustrations, I sent the best to various magazines, including Dragon. I received form rejections from all except Dragon, which was hand written. In short, I was rejected because the art director felt their artists needed to draw in more than a square format.

Silly, I know, but I was so angry about at the time. How insulting, I thought. And stupid. I ranted to everyone who would listen. Then I sent off my portfolio to another magazine and received another rejection. At that time, I had just become disabled. I took the rejections hard and stopped drawing fantasy art altogether.

A few years ago my subconscious mind had a question for me. "Why didn't I ever send that art director more illustrations proving I could draw outside of a box?" I was gobsmacked. An art director had written to me personally. Fine, he didn't make any sense at the time, but how hard would it have been to send him more work? I had my foot in the door. Instead, I walked away.

I learned later how ADHD and Depression affected self-esteem. It is one thing to have a diagnosis, but completely another thing to understand how the neurological maladies affect you—to actually see the effects that ADHD and Depression had on my psyche and how those effects don't have to be lasting. I started then to mend the wrong pathways in my mind that had been heavily tread since youth. That is why, when I received a rejection from that agent four weeks ago, I didn't walk away. I leapt forward at the opportunity:

Dear Mr. Cootey:

Thanks for sharing your manuscript with me. I think you have the spirit
of a beginning reader, short sentences and rhythm and a positive, encouraging tone. But I think there needs to be more of a story. Do the young hikers meet any creatures? Is there one vista in particular that is beautiful? It needs more of a story arc…

Almost two decades ago I would have focused only on the negatives in that letter. Ten years ago, they would have stood out in my mind in 50 point type. Even five years ago, I would have downplayed the kind, encouraging words. I am so relieved that I have successfully retrained myself to think positively and to have greater faith in myself.

I'm writing about this today because I felt it was an important milestone for me to have reached and thought others might learn from it. We don't have to be victims of ADHD, Depression, or of other neurological ailments. We may never be free of them, but we don't need to let them be shackles on our self-esteem.

I looked at that email, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. It took me four weeks, and I don't know if he'll like what I've done, but I know the story is better for his input. I can't express enough how happy I am to be given a chance at success again, especially considering how many opportunities I let pass me by due to past low self-esteem. This opportunity may not amount to anything. The agent could still reject the manuscript. But I know now that I've truly crossed a threshold, whereas before I only hoped that I had.