The Sting of Rejection

The Sting of Rejection

I was doing some pre-spring decluttering last weekend and one of the things that I decided to tackle was the rejection file that I started in 2001. I don't know if you can really tell from the below photo just how stuffed this file folder was but take my word for it, the thing was positively crammed with rejections (and some requests which would later lead to rejections) from four different countries.

rejection folder: sorry - not for us

Most of the correspondence in the above folder are agent rejections, both from before and after things didn't work out with my first agent. I'm not sure why I held on to all of them for quite so long (maybe it felt like proof of my efforts?). In fact, even after weeding out the form rejections or others that didn't offer much wisdom on why whatever particular manuscript I'd sent along a query for wasn't for them, I slipped quite a few back into the folder for further safe keeping.

If you're not a writer (or a musician, actor or some other type of artist/performer) it might seem distinctly odd to continue to choose to do something that involves so much rejection. Needless to say your confidence can take a beating. Maybe you even seriously consider quitting. But often the desire to write (or act or sing or whatever) won't leave you alone so stopping isn't as simple as it sounds. Even as the professionals (agents and editors) tell you that your work isn't what they're looking for, telling stories is what you want to do.

It's important to remember that when the rejections become particularly painful. If you're truly passionate about your own stories it's easier to stand behind them when the going gets tough. It's also important to realize that getting published doesn't mean your rejection days are behind you. Not all your books may sell and when those that do start to make their way out in the world inevitably they will encounter detractors. There's absolutely no way your work can be everyone's cup of tea. Some reviews will (reject!) slam your novel. Some readers will react with indifference or irritation. Having been through the submission process with agents and/or editors beforehand this will be nothing new to you but it can still be frustrating.

If they have too strong a negative impact you might find that it's better not to look at reviews at all. You definitely don't want any unnecessary negativity messing with your creative energy. In fact, personally I find it's better not only to avoid reviews but industry blogs and websites in general and just lose myself in whatever story I'm writing, like a tightrope walker or a horse with blinkers on.

So to sum up, for those of you who are precisely where I was before my first book was published (stuffing your rejection folder): write what you love, dedicate yourself to making your work the best that it can be, don't give up and—if it's going to throw off your balance—as much as possible, don't look down!

tightrope walker
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