Monday, April 19, 2010

Six Things I’ve Learned about Rejection
One writer’s perspective

Let’s face it, rejection isn’t fun. It especially isn’t fun when it’s tied to your hopes and dreams. I’ve suffered my share of knocks over the years, and I’ve observed a few things along the way. These are in no particular order. Take them as you will.

Rejection is better than hearing nothing at all. At least it is a sense of closure from which one can move on. Endless waiting is much, much worse.

If you aren’t being rejected, you aren’t trying hard enough. We’ve all heard stories about the writer who received a long-lost rejection after selling her manuscript for a huge advance elsewhere. (And doesn’t that just sound like fun?) Getting rejected means you’re putting yourself out there. Putting yourself out there is the only way you will ever succeed. Unless you’re receiving rejection from someone--your online workshops, critique partners, teachers, contest judges, reviewers, readers, agents or editors--you aren’t putting yourself out there enough.

Rejection sometimes means nothing more than ‘no, thanks’. It doesn’t necessarily mean every word you spew is garbage, you made an unforgivable typo, addressed someone too formally or informally, bugged them with one too many status emails, inadvertently wrote something unflattering about them on a blog or writers forum, put your work out there too soon or too late, missed an apostrophe, sounded too desperate, too creative, used the wrong verb or one too many adverbs, forgot to mention that fabulous detail that would unequivocally seal the deal, had the wrong word-count, are secretly blacklisted throughout the publishing community, or that you’re plain not liked.

It could just mean, “No, thanks. This work isn’t right for me.” Sure, you could be rejected for any one of these reasons, but then again, maybe not. Writers are stellar at reading between the lines. Sometimes, there is nothing there but white space.

Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results really is one definition of insanity. While courage is required to put yourself out there, blindly forging ahead without stepping back once in a while to assess where you’re going isn’t a good idea. If tweaks and shoves here and there aren’t selling your manuscript, maybe it’s time to take a harder look. Manuscripts do get rejected for big problems which require hefty solutions. I’m not talking bon-fire big, rather, think-about-it-long-and-hard big. Structure problems, pacing problems, issues with voice, character, language or plot all require thoughtful, practiced rework. And rework. And rework. And that rework may get rejected. Fun, isn’t it?

Rejection hurts, even when you’re used to it. True, skin may get thicker, but there is sting to rejection no matter how jaded the writer. Think of that small pain as a reminder you care. Doing something you care about, even if you are rejected should at least make you feel good for trying. So, take rejection with a spoonful of sugar, or a fistful of peanut butter M&Ms - whatever works for you - and keep that chin up.

They can block your email address as spam, but only you can quit trying. Rejection really does put you one step closer to achieving your dreams...if you never give up. One of my favorite quotes is from Harriet Beecher Stow:
Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will
That thought has kept me going on many a weary day. Wouldn’t you hate to find if you’d held on just a teensy bit longer, you’d have gotten that book deal/great review/contest win/literary representation/whatever? Of course, you'd never know that, would you? Can you stand not knowing? There's only one way to find out - and that makes this my favorite lesson learned. Rejection is a reminder to never, ever give up.


Zelda Benjamin said...

I love # 6.

Sandy Cody said...

They're all good - and all true - but the one that really resonates with me is #2.

Carol Hutchens said...

Oh, I love this!
You've given the negative a twist and made us feel better. This is so good!
Thank you! Really enjoyed the post.

Cheri LaClaire said...

Wonderful! This should be reprinted on blogs all over the web.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

What a positive outlook on rejections. I agree with you but have to admit I don't always see this at the time I'm rejected.

Beate Boeker said...

I enjoyed this post, Rebecca! Thank you for your encouraging words . . . I have to bite the bullet and go out there again!