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On Rejection: Diane Hatz
Hellooooo everyone! I’m very excited to bring you another interview in our On Rejection interview series. Like a few interviewees before her, Diane Hatz has experimented with indie publishing after finding the confines of traditional publishing a little narrow. She has a great series of posts defining the types of publishing, in fact, if you’re interested in learning more—I especially liked what she had to say about indie publishing.
If you’re just discovering Collected Rejections, welcome! In this world, writing is still fun, rejection is not bad word, and we’re all here to grow as writers. If you’re into that, subscribe to this newsletter here:
Hi Diane! Tell us about a time you experienced rejection.
One of the worst rejections I ever got was not finding anywhere to publish my first book. I now credit that with having incredibly low self-esteem and not being ready for what it takes to be a successful writer. I had a Masters in Creative Writing, but I didn't have the strength to continue in the face of so much rejection.
I moved to New York City in 1990 to work in the music industry while writing novels. You know, until I was famous enough to just write.
I spent five and a half years seriously working on a book. I'd get up at five a.m. and write for a couple of hours before heading to the record company I worked at (which became my novel's setting). On average, I worked on the manuscript about six days a week.
I finished Rock Gods of Acht in the late 1990s and began sending queries to agents, small publishers, and even some big houses. All I got were rejections. Some were kind, but many were cold and, on occasion, brutal. Some never responded, which I think is the cruelest type of rejection. One form rejection letter had a box ticked that essentially told me to give up being a writer.
I was devastated. I naturally had dreamed of being picked for Oprah's Book Club and getting on her show. Of winning awards and hanging out with famous people. I realized years later that I'd based my self-worth on the book being successful. And that's definitely the wrong motivation for being a writer.
I never found an agent or publisher, so I published Rock Gods of Acht myself in 2008 before indie publishing was an accepted model. I did zero promotion, and the book quickly disappeared into the black hole of Amazon.
How did you get over it?
I let life get in the way of my writing for nearly fifteen years, but covid helped bring me back. My nonprofit business became a covid casualty, so as I figured out what to do, I picked up my pen and started writing again. I'm over 50,000 words in with my current book and on my first rewrite.
As I started the manuscript, a friend from my early years in NYC reconnected. She'd read my book and shared that I had the message wrong. Rock Gods of Acht was not about the music industry. It's set in a 1990s record company and is based on my experiences there, but that's not the book's meaning.
The novel is a cautionary tale and shows that sometimes our dreams turn out to be nightmares. It's one woman's search for herself and the strength it takes to discover who she really is. It's about having the courage to love yourself enough to do what's best for you.
After explaining this, my friend informed me she quit her office job right after she finished the book. The story helped her see she'd been hiding from her creative side. So she left her office job of many years and set up her own business designing experiential events and spaces.
As a writer, I don't think there's a bigger compliment. It took a bit of convincing, but she encouraged me to rerelease the book. Rock Gods & Messy Monsters has been repackaged with a beautiful cover my friend designed, a few minor edits, and a preface and final thoughts. It officially releases on September 7th and is still as relevant as ever!
If you could go back and tell yourself anything before that experience, what would you say?
I wish I could have encouraged myself enough to keep at it with writing. I would have let myself know I was good enough and that I shouldn't listen to other people. But I'm a recovering codependent people pleaser, and I placed too much of my self-worth on what other people thought of me - in all aspects of my life. And even though I might still have some shades of codependency, I've come a long way!
I also would have told myself to find better people to associate with. We all need encouragement and support, and I don't think I could fully understand that until a few months ago when my friend came back into my life. I'm also part of a woman's writing group for women over forty-five and get a lot of support from the other writers. I wished I had understood that writing itself might be solitary, but being a writer shouldn't be. We need to connect with other creatives. Everyone needs a cheerleader on their side.
What has publishing and changing directions in your career taught you about rejection?
Rejection is a part of the writing process. It's a simple fact that everyone will not like my work. And even though rejection might still hurt, and I have to hug myself under the covers sometimes, it's okay. I don't try to push it away anymore.
If something happens to upset me, like someone saying something unkind about my work or even me personally, I let it hurt. I think pushing feelings down is the worst thing a person can do. I also remind myself that everyone is doing the best they can, no matter how painful, angry, or mean they might seem. They're hurting whether they know it or not, and that has nothing to do with me.
With regard to career, that's another essay we don't have time or space to go into. I drastically changed my life, from moving to New Mexico after thirty years in New York City to changing careers within a year. The work I'd done in food advocacy for nearly twenty-five years is gone, and I couldn't make the kind of impact I wanted to make.
That kind of rejection stabs deep. For many months, I was lost and, if I'm honest, bitter. I'm still working through this massive life change, but it's teaching me that all the outer stuff is irrelevant. The status, job title, big salary, work - it's all irrelevant in the end. What matters is the person we are and are striving to become. That's why I now call myself an Inner Activist.
I'm still creating my new chapter, but as each day passes, I feel lighter and freer. I'm shedding years of striving for something that could never bring me happiness. And I'm finding that true joy lies within. And I don't think I could have started on this path without going through all that rejection.
What are you working on now?
I've launched a publishing imprint through my consulting company Whole Healthy Group. I'm republishing my 2008 book as Rock Gods & Messy Monsters. The ebook should also be online by the time this interview is published. I've decided that indie publishing is the way to go, so I'm all in with the writing career. I've also got another book in rewrites and ideas for a third and fourth.
I have a Substack called Next Draft with Diane Hatz. It's a newsletter for creatives looking inward. And includes writing stuff. I'm hoping to sync it with the themes I write about in my books and am thinking about adding some offshoot fictional stories about characters in Rock Gods.
I'm also working on shutting off my computer when I get stressed and going out into the stunning New Mexico desert and mountains to experience the beauty and power of this great state. Or I sit on my patio and watch the whitest, puffiest clouds dance in the deep blue sky. I really have a wonderful life.
You can follow Diane on Twitter.