Rejections I Have Loved
Are You A Reject? If You’re a Writer, the Answer is Often Yes.
When I was 16 I was invited to a “dated” Sweet 16 party so I had to invite a boy to accompany me. I mustered up my courage and approached Louie, a guy I hardly knew but thought he was a cute gymnast.
“Do you want to go with me to Franny’s Sweet 16?”
And he walked away. Talk about your man of few words!
My first rejection. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because I had told all of my friends I was going to ask him. But, it also fired me up and helped move me from “Ouch” to “Who is he to reject me? I’m cool, smart, friendly, funny…” I comforted myself by listing all of my good qualities. I left out the acne-ridden face as there wasn’t much I could do about that. Ultimately my first rejection made me stronger.
Fast forward a few years to college. I am seriously crushing on a guy so I hang around his apartment waiting to be noticed until I finally tell him I’m interested, at which point he tells me he’s not. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because his roommates couldn’t help but see exactly what I was up to. I would have comforted myself by convincing me I was too good for him but I didn’t have time because his roommate quickly expressed an interest in me. We have been married for 42 years. Ultimately that rejection made me happier. (Note: We are all still friends and I am always grateful for that rejection. That guy made the right choice.)
Fast forward to my corporate career. I had been a teacher and moved to a job at a newspaper running their education department. I interacted with other publisher types selling educational materials. One of them — Ed, a vice president of a large educational publishing company — approached me about a new job: teacher trainer. I would teach teachers how to use their new reading program. Dream job! I loved teaching and believed in their program’s innovative approach, my schedule would be flexible, and I’d make a lot more money. I interviewed and Ed assured me I was a shoo-in but they didn’t hire me. A peer of Ed’s had also presented a candidate and that peer had more clout so I was rejected. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because I had told my current boss I was considering leaving. Ultimately, that rejection made me wiser by forcing me to focus on the kind of career I wanted and motivated me to start my own educational publishing company which we ran successfully for the next 15 years and also launched my writing career.
If you are a writer, you are also likely a reject. I’ve outlined these three incidents of demoralization but there have been many more. Lately they come in the form of being ignored by agents, by publishing houses, by online webzines, etc. as I send my work out there. Rejections have changed in the digital age. They now come in one of three types. The first is silence. You send something to them and are deafened by the silence of no response. The second is the form letter warning you about the coming silence. It goes something like this:
Thank you for your email. Because of the high volume of queries we receive, we are unable to respond to every query.
If we are interested in your work, we will certainly follow up by email or phone. However, if you haven’t heard from us within 6 to 8 weeks, please assume that we are passing on your project.
The third rejection type is what’s known as a kinder, gentler telling you to get lost. It’s one that at least indicates they’ve taken a good look at your work:
I did receive this, and although I think your idea is charming, I’m afraid it’s not something I’d like to pursue. I wish you all the best with this project, and appreciate the opportunity to consider it. Very best wishes, Agent who thinks you’re a loser
Take your rejections lightly. Look for the ways in which you can make anything good come out of them. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep convincing yourself it’s not you, it’s them. There’s no way to success except through failure.
Oh, and one more thing, if you haven’t yet subscribed to my blog, please do so on the right. If you reject me, though, I will conclude it’s you, not me. Thanks!