Recently, over at Fangs, Fur, & Fey, they asked the question about how to deal with the ups and downs of the writing life. They didn't mean, it seems, the day-to-day facing of the page that is writing, but rather the ups and downs of querying agents and trying to get a book published. Now, admittedly, I'm in the very beginning stages of this process, but there have been plenty of ups and downs already, and there are plenty of people I know who have been pushed out of trying to publish their books because of these ups and downs, so I have a teeny bit of experience here.
This is what I have learned thus far about dealing with the ups and downs:
1. Stretch the ups as much as possible. When the writing is going good, when you get good news, when things are humming along, enjoy them. Talk about them to a few choice people. Note them in your journal (if you have one). Frame the acceptance email.* Don't move on to the next step without enjoying the current step a little bit.
2. Brush off bad news that doesn't mean anything. Form rejections don't mean anything except "no." There's no secret code to the phrases an agent or editor uses in the mimeographed sheet cut into little strips. It just means no. It cannot tell you anything of value, except that the agent or editor doesn't want the book you sent them them. So move on.**
3. Take a break. Sometimes, when I get bad news or the writing is going poorly, I find that the most effective thing is to stop writing. Not permanently, maybe not even for a day, but just to give myself a buffer between the rough wind of the writing life and the delicate flower that is my draft project. I know that many writers go on and on about how YOU MUST WRITE DAILY, and I usually do write daily, but sometimes it's better for me to watch the latest episode of Dancing With The Stars instead of murdering my darlings on the page.
4. Ignore it. When all else fails, when you've been rejected a million times by everyone, on ten different projects, keep going. If you can't be persistent in the face of rejection, then you probably cannot have a career as a writer. Not even a little side career. As JA Konrath says, you know what you call a writer who doesn't give up? Published.
* True story -- I have notes from the phone conversation with Agent Ted in which he offered me representation. They read, at one point, OFFER!!!! and are underlined about four times and are in brackets. Sometimes, I go back and look at them, just for fun. It's like the visual equivalent of someone pinching me to make sure I'm awake.
** Personalized responses are quite different, of course, because they say things specific to you. Don't just ignore them.