How Do You Deal with Disappointment?

Disappointment. We’ve all had it, and I don’t think any of us really enjoy it. (I mean, that’s kind of tied up in the definition of it, right? If you’re happy you’re disappointed, then you can’t be disappointed . . .)

I’ve experienced plenty of disappointment in my life, whether it was the first time I asked a girl to a dance and she turned me down or the time I applied to doctoral programs and didn’t get into any of them. Disappointment is a part of life, and learning to handle it is an important part of the maturation process, sadly. You’re not always going to get what you want.

One of my least favorite parts of being an author is just how multifaceted disappointment can be in the field. You’re never really free of it at any point in a project. You write a book. You think it’s great. Your agent doesn’t like it at all. Disappointment. Or your agent likes it, and you submit it to editors, and none of them like it. Disappointment. Or one of them likes it, and you finally publish it, but the reviewers or the readers don’t like it. Disappointment. Or most people like it, but you still come across a review from a reader who hated it.

At any point in time, putting your work out there to get feedback from others will almost inevitably lead you to disappointment at some point in the future.

I’ve gotten better at handling it, of course. In my everyday life, it’s easier to steel myself for disappointment ahead of time. I typically know when something’s coming up that might be a letdown, and I can prepare accordingly. But when you’ve submitted a manuscript to 15 or 20 editors, you’re never sure when they’ll get back to you. Checking email becomes a precarious thing, as you might have a rejection waiting for you at any time. Even then, though, you get used to it. Have enough projects out there, and any single rejection loses some of its sting. (Like the time I received a rejection for MEMORY THIEF after it had already been published. That was not a disappointment.)

Even then, there are new and exciting ways for you to be disappointed. I’d sold MEMORY THIEF and had back and forth letters with my editor about the revision, and then the publishing house that bought it closed. That was a big disappointment. Yesterday, a project that I’d already dismissed in my head suddenly popped back up in a big way on my radar, as an editor expressed interest in acquiring it. Things were looking great, and I couldn’t help but start getting my hopes up.

Until the book didn’t make it through the acquisitions meeting. (The editor had liked it, but the other editors . . . had not.)

Thankfully, I’ve been through this enough now that I know one thing that inevitably seems to cure disappointment for me: time. I know the feeling I have when I first find out about a let down, and I know that feeling subsides over time. It becomes less important. I move my focus to other things. In writing, often the best cure for me is to dive into a different project. To always have something new to focus on.

How about you? How do you handle disappointments in your life?


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