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How do I grow from here?

            I was growing before. I could feel it. My trunk was growing more stable and my branches were starting to leaf, even to flower. But I hit a wall this year, with the extra weight of Covid, and hybrid teaching, and maybe trying to move forward too quickly.

“I’m a blur!”

            I keep watching Hallmark movies, hoping that the gumption and confidence of the heroines will rub off on me. I want to be the kind of person who sees a problem and relishes the chance to solve it; I want to be the kind of person who can embrace change, and persist despite rejection, and believe in my vision of the future and fight for it; but I’m not.

            It’s been a relief, during Covid, to have an excuse not to move faster towards my goals, because my inner clock runs very slowly compared to the normal world. Covid time is much more my speed.

            I know I need to branch out in new directions, but I don’t feel safe out on those shaky limbs. I’ve struggled to decide which risks to take, because I don’t know ahead of time what I’m ready to handle or what will be too much. I’ve had experience with “too much” in the past and how deep the hopelessness and depression can be when what I thought would be a small leap over a shallow puddle turned out to be a swan dive off a cliff.

            I keep hearing the introjected voices in my head telling me what I should do and who I should be, and lately the shoulds have been taking precedence over what I want, and they’ve prevented me from investing the energy and patience I’d need to succeed at the things I really love. Like writing. I feel like the shoulds are yelling at me and the wants are whispering, and I don’t know who to listen to.

            I’m still writing, but the voices keep telling me that I have no right to think of myself as a writer in the face of all of the rejection, and no right to spend time working through plot lines when I should be doing something worthwhile, like teaching, or social work. And when I sit down to write, the voices get louder and louder. I only feel safe working on short pieces for the blog, because the longer pieces are the ones that have collected all of the rejections. It feels like masochism to keep writing things that no one but an intern at a literary magazine will ever see.

“I like to reject people. Deal with it.”

            Is it okay to continue to write when so much of my work has been deemed unacceptable? Is it selfish? Is it self-destructive?

            I’m angry that the rejections have stopped me from writing more, and I’m angry that I can’t shut off my inner critics and get the work done, and then I’m angry at myself for being such a loser and a moron and an idiot, and on and on. My therapist asked me to write down all of the nasty things I hear in my head when I try to write and I filled six pages without ever feeling like I’d scratched the surface.

“It’s exhausting.”

            But I don’t want to give in to these voices and follow the shoulds instead of doing the things I love. I’m so tired of hearing what’s wrong with me, and what’s not enough, or what’s too much, as if the noise is blaring out of speakers everywhere I go.

            So this year, my resolution is to do the work that matters to me, even when it’s hard, even when I have to fill page after page with nonsense before I can get to one good, heartfelt sentence. I hate that it’s so hard to get to the good stuff, but it is, for me, for now.

            And I have to persist.

“I can teach you how to persist, Mommy. It’s my super power!”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

110 responses »

  1. I think rejection is part of being a writer. Every time I get one (even though I was sure that this time would be the one 🤞) I tell myself my skin is getting thicker. That way when the inevitable happens (and you have to have faith that it will) and your work is out there for all to see, and that scathing review is received (because that will happen too), it’s not soul crushing. It’s just another little bump in the road you’ve been traveling down for years. Wishing you the best of luck with your writing – its self care, not selfish!

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  2. Found this article. Maybe it will help. Lots of famous authors were rejected A LOT, but they persisted. It’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about getting up every time and trying again. https://lithub.com/the-most-rejected-books-of-all-time/

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  3. I think all creative people deal with the inner saboteur and doubt – its a part of the process. I struggled for years about labelling myself as a writer before I finally embraced the moniker. In then end it does not really matter what you call yourself, I think it’s more about finding what brings you joy. If you love to write, then write. Most writers struggle to find their niche, their voice, and a market if they get to the step of publishing and selling their work…the entire process is a learning curve that never ends. You just have to love what you’re doing and try and stuff that negativity and nay-sayers down in a dark corner somewhere. I know its difficult at times, but you’re here, your writing, that’s the hardest part. Keep creating beauty. You’ve go my support 😀

    *sending virtual hug*

    Plus, always love seeing pics of your furbabies, they always bring light into my day.

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  4. Oh, my goodness Rachel. Remember that you have survived the swan dives from cliffs, though you expected to negotiate a puddle or ford a stream. As far as rejected writing, remember that for everything that gets accepted, there are many attempts that do not, and surely that goes for all writers. Maybe like job applications or sometimes relationships, situations I have some experience with. Keep writing and negotiating the paths on your own time! Breathe and heal, beautiful girl.

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  5. Yeah, well, I’d say that everyone who reads and or comments on your blog has 100% faith in you. So, there’s that.

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  6. Rachel–I look forward to Saturdays because I know that’s the day you post. I do have 100% faith in you. The hell with those voices in your head–they’re just mad because you are not doing exactly what they want! Revolt, girl!! Hit the ‘mute’ button. Keep on writing, because you do have a very captive audience right here!!!

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  7. You are an excellent writer! Also, I can totally relate to the shoulds vs wants! They occupied much of my 20’s & still kinda do.

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  8. Rachel, be kind to yourself. You have so much to offer with your writing and with your ideas, perspective, and insights. Rejection is really tough, but it seems to be a major part of being a writer. Do you belong to a writers’ group, by any chance, where you can get and give feedback (and commiseration)? Mostly, give yourself a hug and a pat on the back, and then, as you say, just persist. I thoroughly enjoy your writing … and what you’re expressing.

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  9. A friend of mine suffered attacks from critical voices when she painted. She called them “hatemail from the subconscious”. She managed to persist and eventually painted lovely landscapes that showed her growing sense of inner harmony…I think of creative work as a spiritual discipline. No one wastes time while praying. I hope you continue with your work. It’s never a waste.

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  10. Do not give in to the negative voices. You are such a good writer.

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  11. Please don’t give up. Keep writing.

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  12. Boy, can I relate. Stay strong. Keep those doggies in your lineup. Keep working. It’s what you do.

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  13. Take heart, Rachel: rejection slips often have no bearing on the quality of ones writing. If you love writing, keep at it!

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  14. I am not a writer like you but it seems that pretty much every writer suffers some or lots of rejections – look at J K Rowling.

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  15. I read and hear you, Rachel. There are no rejections from this corner!

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  16. I spent 40 years of my life listening to the “shoulds”, more about who I should be than about what I should be doing. Please break free from those shoulds longer than it took me! Rachel, no one can write exactly as you do, no one can be you better than you can. If you’ve never read it, I strongly suggest you read “I Am Me” by Virginia Satir. I keep it as a favorite on my computer (I had it as a poster but it eventually yellowed and got brittle). I gained much strength during my journey to become authentically me by reading those words repeatedly, and I hope they might help you on your journey as well!

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    • “I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.”

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      • There’s something about the word discard that really resonates for me; I keep thinking that I have to disregard or disrespect the voices, but discard somehow sounds better.

  17. You just wrote all of this, and interested a great many people. That’s proof enough to me that you are a writer, Rachel.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  18. The Dark Night of the Soul can persist a long time, but daylight soon follows.

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  19. The things I have told myself about myself are meaner than I have ever been to another human being. These days I’ve been trying to change the language I use when thinking of myself, and to be as kind to myself as I try to be to others. Chances are you’d be kinder and more understanding to me, or another human being, than you are to yourself. You can’t change some things, but you can be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else. Keep the blogs posts coming, many of us are reading every word, you have a loyal audience!

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  20. Think of those unhelpful comments as a committee and “fire the committed”. In my own writing journey, it has been tough not to take rejection personally because the writing is often personal. Here is a quote from one of my musings about trying to deal with rejection in writing … “the accomplishment has already occurred in the creation of the art regardless of the outcome. Stories are the voice of the heart and there is no price or mark of success or failure that can be attributed to them. Their true value lies with the writer, rather than the decisions of a third party.” Take heart, if you write you are a writer and, although it is easier said than done, try not to let anyone else convince you otherwise!

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  21. You are a writer, because you write and you write well. And if you need external validation, you have only to look at your book and your successful blog! Do whatever it takes to tune out the voices that tell you what you can’t do, and listen to your heart instead. Rejections is the hardest part of the writing life, and all writers struggle with it. But just because someone else doesn’t want to publish your work doesn’t mean it isn’t good work. Look at all the comments on this post, and you can see how your words touched others in a meaningful way. That’s what writing is all about…and you are very successful at it!

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  22. Just love to see little doggie pearly whites! So cute! Must add though, that while you feel yourself as slo-mo, you sure get lots of wonderful stuff accomplished!!

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  23. Rejections seem to be part of the writer’s life. I’ve certainly had my share. Hang in there and write yourself into the new year! Love your visual dog comments.

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  24. Rachel, I truly appreciate the honesty and transparency in which you write. Your writing naturally leads your reader to be introspective. Your tree analogy was poignant. I remember during my elementary years standing with my school group staring at the rings that composed the trunk of large oak tree. We learned the thickness of the rings tell the tree’s life story. Thicker rings indicated seasons of growth- when sun and water were abundant. Thinner rings indicated seasons of drought and stress for the tree. The tree in no way could control its conditions. Yet, the rings showed that in each season of life it did grow and produce fruit however great or small for that season. Blessings to you, Cricket & Ellie in this New Year and thank you for being such a faithful reader of my blog.

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  25. Oh my gosh, I relate 100%.

    I love your writing, Rachel. And I love how you ended this post:
    “So this year, my resolution is to do the work that matters to me, even when it’s hard, even when I have to fill page after page with nonsense before I can get to one good, heartfelt sentence. I hate that it’s so hard to get to the good stuff, but it is, for me, for now. And I have to persist.”

    YES! Persistence is the key. You are AWESOME! ❤❤❤

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  26. The sentences : “Is it okay to continue to write when so much of my work has been deemed unacceptable? Is it selfish? Is it self-destructive?” resonate. I’m curious, WHO deemed your work “unacceptable?” If it’s yourself, stop listening to that voice, it’s lying to you. One of my therapists once told me “Don’t SHOULD on yourself,” We all do of course. Only you can say if your writing is self destructive, but to me? Merely opinion here, but you seem to love writing, and you do a wonderful job at it, so I’d say carry on. One very hard lesson to learn as we grow is to tell the lies and negative self talk from the truth. Embrace yourself. You are great, because God made you that way.

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  27. Always be determined, persevere and persist and Dare to dream BIG.
    Have a good New Year.

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  28. Happy New Year Rachel. Keep doing what you enjoy. There is no pleasure in forcing yourself to do something you don’t or feel perhaps you should. I remember my dad’s friend who was giving me piano lessons telling him he couldn’t teach me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn, just that my natural gift took over. He felt that if he forced me to learn, I would grow to hate it, and possibly not play at all. Had that happened, I would not have had my music to see me through my darkest moments, and I dread to think what the result could have been.
    Take care and keep safe.

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  29. If you feel and you write, you qualify as a writer. Many great writers were rejected. Melville’s masterpiece “Moby Dick” was rejected by multiple publishers. From what I understand, Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm” was rejected by at least 4. Heller’s “Catch-22” was rejected by 22, which is how the novel got its name. So you are in good company! Just keep writing.

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  30. Personally, I try to balance my shoulds with my wants. It works pretty good for me until I let one totally overshadow the other. As far as your writing, I read your book, and of course I read your blog post every week. Believe it as truth when I say that you have important messages to give in compelling story lines. Please don’t stop trying.

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  31. It’s the rejection, and continuing to write in the face of that rejection, that makes you a writer.
    Keep going!
    Shavuah Tov,
    -Shira

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  32. “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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  33. Persisting’s good. So is your sense of humor, unless you’re simply the straight person for your dog’s one-liners. And I don’t think you are. I don’t know if there’s anyone there to meet with and to write with or, better yet, a writing group to take part in and-or to form. This is the writing teacher talking, by the way. I think your writing’s awfully good and am glad you write about persistence for yourself. Persisting’s good. It’s Cricket’s super-power.

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  34. I identify with so much of what you have written here. I’ve also felt myself in a rut – watching terrible TV and accomplishing little. In my case, it’s job-hunting. I know that I so badly need (and want) to update my resume and apply for jobs, and yet, I don’t feel confident at all. I have to remind myself that rejection is a normal part of the process, but it definitely isn’t easy.

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  35. Keep writing. Rewrite. Write other stuff. Then Rewrite it.

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  36. I don’t want to add to the voices but for me you write beautifully. I love reading your blog and actually save it till I have the time to read it with some slow and deliberate thought. I think in this pandemic we can give ourselves permission to listen to our own wants and thoughts as we are spending so much time with them. It might be time to do them a favour and listen. I for one would enjoy more of your words to read. Thank you.

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  37. Persist. Please, persist. You are enough and your voice matters more than you’ll ever be able to measure. I, for one, am grateful for you.

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  38. A question that comes to mind for me is “who are you writing for?” You clearly have nailed the writing for yourself and writing for a very large blog community. Is there another particular audience that you would like to reach? I would sit with that question and see what opens.

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  39. Rejection is hard. So far I’ve only been paid for one piece of writing, although I’ve done some semi-professional writing for free. But it can be hard to keep working on the novel I’m writing when I worry that no one will ever read it. I try to focus on what I’m writing right now and not to worry about the publishing at this stage, although I will have to confront that at some point.

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  40. Keep going. All the famous writers tell us to keep calm and carry on. I have stopped approaching literary agents but really shouldn’t.

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  41. I agree with there being a COVID time and it being in keeping with MY time . . too! I wish you peace in your quest to do what you want.

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  42. Oh my… You have been reading my diary again, haven’t you? I can say I understand, and I can tell you to keep pushing on. Both of things I do say and loud! We are in a field where the big business people run slipshod over our hearts day in and day out. It is THEIR job. OUR job is to (silently) tell them to kiss our posteriors, that WE KNOW OUR WORK IS VALID AND MEANINGFUL AND GOOD, and that we WILL NOT STOP WRITING NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY!!!
    You have known me a long time here, and I have witnessed your growth, your ‘blossoming’ as an artist, as a writer, as a person. My goodness, how proud I am of you, and what an example you are for me and thousands of others! My friend(which I am so pleased that you are) you ARE an author. It’s not what you do, it’s who you ARE, and I hate to be the one to tell you this: There is just NO getting away from yourself.
    As writers we put our inner selves out in the world in a permanent format….Our hearts aren’t just on our sleeves, they are tattooed on our foreheads! (don’t get any ideas!)
    please know that I value you as an artist, as a writer, as a human being who shares her innermost fears and aspirations, her inspirations, her dedication, her very self with a whole slew of fellow humans who BENEFIT from this GIFT.
    I needed to read this post tonight. My bipolar disorder cycles around to very dark places at times, and it can really keep me “stuck’ creatively. I echo all your sentiments, having to drag myself out of the mire(with HELP) often.
    Tell those awful inner voices that I say, ‘Back OFF!!’ and push them back into the cellar and let’s put a big padlock on that door! Those big meanies aren’t welcome here! Keep pushing on!

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  43. Don’t listen to those ‘shoulds’

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  44. You have a way with words, no doubt about that. Wish you luck with your resolutions.

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  45. The Reynolds' Rap

    Keep on going!!!

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  46. As long as you don’t give up, taking breaks from time to time is important too

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  47. Don’t give up. I’ve read your book and you are a gifted writer. I received 250 rejection slips over 40 years of writing and am just now retired and in the place in my life when I actually own time again instead of it owning me – meaning that I can write. So hang in there. Don’t listen to rejections. Listen to God. He made you and He doesn’t make mistakes.

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  48. I like Hallmark movies too. Guilty pleasures, what would we do without them?

    Reply

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