If you are a part of or follow the writing community on Twitter–especially if you follow writing contests hosted on Twitter–then you know that today, August 24th, is a pretty big day. It’s the day Pitch Wars mentors announce who they’ve chosen as their mentees. I was one of the hopefuls this year (2017). That status didn’t change to a mentee.
Obviously, there’s a lot of emotions resulting from that. Sadness. Disappointment. Confusion. Hurt. Anger. Discouragement. Jealousy. And if you’re one of the many–one of the majority–who also didn’t go from hopeful to mentee in the span of an announcement blog post (a blog post that reflected weeks and weeks of hard work and even harder choices by the entire Pitch War staff), you might be feeling any combination of those emotions, too, amongst others.
You may, like me, be feeling a little like Hiccup.
Hiccup. The son of Stoick, the leader of the Vikings. Hiccup, who by his own father, not to mention everyone else in the clan, was labeled as scrawny, weak and a nuisance. Everything the Vikings stood for and valued and exhibited, Hiccup seemed to lack. He was the first Viking who refused to kill a dragon, something that was sacred to their customs and necessary for their survival.
When you think about the Hiccup in that story, you could easily feel discouraged or sad or angry. How can the clan be so against one of their own? How could they discriminate so? How does Hiccup keep going and keep fighting, staying positive, when he seems to not fit into the world that surrounds him?
But you can’t forget that Hiccup is the same Viking who was the first to ride a dragon.
Toothless. A Nightfury, the most dangerous dragon to exist and the most mysterious. Hiccup not only took down a Nightfury with a device he created himself, but he also befriended one, created a device to help Toothless fly, discovered the real reason why the dragons targeted the Vikings and their settlement, put a stop to that reason and then completely reversed the Viking culture, including dragons within their every day life, thus improving that every day life.
When you look at this side of Hiccup, you can’t help but cheer for him and feel elated, excited, inspired. Here is someone who is capable of doing great things, of taking charge, rising above challenges and creating new paths that were unbeknownst before.
Here’s the thing, though: that Hiccup is one and the same.
The Hiccup that everyone got annoyed with because he spent more time tinkering with experiments and less time swinging a sword is the same Hiccup that showed mercy to a dragon when killing Toothless would have erased all the negative things his people said about him. The Hiccup that set the Viking settlement on fire during a dragon attack is the same Hiccup that earned the trust of a dragon to ride one.
The Hiccup that failed is the same Hiccup that succeeded.
So…how does this possibly tie in with getting rejected in Pitch Wars?
Because we’re all Hiccups.
As writers, we all have days where we feel like the black sheep amongst the village, where we feel like we don’t fit in. How could my story about droids taking over the world and annihilating the human race make it onto the NYT #1 Bestseller List, when all of those books exhibit X trait and Y qualities, and I’m not even published yet? We all have days where we doubt what we are (writers) and question why we’re even trying when we’ve failed so many times before. Can I really claim to be a good writer when I still confuse when it’s appropriate to use “who’s” and “whose”? Or when I can never spell “virtuous” right the first time, even though it’s in the title of my manuscript? We all have days and moments when what we write is shit, our stories aren’t flowing, we misspell a word in a query to our dream agent, we vent our frustrations online, we doubt every sentence we write, we feel like claiming to be a writer is a fraud.
We all have days when we don’t get chosen as mentees.
So right now, you may be feeling like Hiccup before he meet Toothless, when he questioned how he could even claim to be Viking when he had so many strikes against him. Right now, it’s easy to focus on those negative emotions that bubble up after a rejection.
I want to remind you that while you feel like this, the other aspect of Hiccup is still very much a core part of you.
You know, post-Toothless Hiccup. The writer who crushes 7,000 words in one day because the words wouldn’t stop flowing–or perhaps writes one sentence even though they felt completely crummy and didn’t think they could get anything written that day. The writer who comes up with a new plot idea that sends chills of excitement down to their toes. The writer who gets giddy talking with their writing group, getting (and sending) feedback notes from (to) their CP/betas, who gets a partial request from an agent–or even a personalized rejection.
The writer who doesn’t give up, despite.
Because here’s the thing: yes, not getting chosen as a mentee sucks, because we feel like we’re missing out on the chance to get our writing noticed and learning from such amazing people. We feel that getting into Pitch Wars is a validation that our writing is good enough and now that we haven’t, how is anything we write any good? Or, we feel like we’ve missed our one chance in achieving our dreams. I, for one, am definitely getting a hot fudge sundae after work. Because yeah, I’m bummed.
But here’s the other thing, the more important thing: the only way you’ve lost your chance; the only way that your stories don’t get told; the only way your writing isn’t good enough; the only way the door closes on your dreams, is if you stop. If you let rejection halt your tracks. If you stop believing in your stories.
And why would you do that?
How many dragons would have been killed if Hiccup gave up after Toothless was taken by his father, wrongly accused of hurting Hiccup and being dangerous? How long would the Vikings have lived in ignorance if Hiccup had given into his own despair and didn’t believe in himself–or Toothless?
So do you what you need to, Pitch Wars hopefuls, to help heal from rejection. Because it hurts and it does suck. Eat ice cream. Watch your favorite movie. Hang out with friends that make you laugh. Hug puppies. And then get back to work, whether it’s sending the manuscript you submitted into Pitch Wars to betas for feedback, brainstorming a new idea, plotting out a novel, writing character sheets, beta reading for someone else, reading a book from your genre, reading your mentors books in support of their dreams, or a plethora of other options to get back into the routine of writing.
Because you are just as much a writer as Hiccup is a Viking.
Now, it’s time for you to figure out exactly what that looks like.