The world of writing comes with a constellation of certainties. Creating. Editing. Research. Solitude. More editing. And if you’re submitting your work for publication, add the Big R to the list: Rejection.
As Isaac Asimov wrote, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” Yep, all the greats have suffered rejection.
I’d love to give the subject a Pollyanna-polish, but really, there’s no way around it. Rejection sucks. Since it’s an inevitable pothole in the writing journey, the question is not how to avoid rejection, but how to handle it.
Here’s one slightly comforting perspective. Writing may be a lonely endeavor, but when you’re swimming in the pool of rejection, you’re never alone. A lot of bodies inhabit that salty, tear-filled water and the good thing is they are alive. So while you’re dog-paddling around, do some commiserating. Then swim to the side, haul yourself out, shake like a dog, and get back at it.
About two years ago, I attended a writer’s workshop where a very successful author related the sad tale of one of his manuscripts. He had worked on the novel for over a year, finally had it polished to his satisfaction, and sent it off to his agent, who promptly rejected it. He then sent it to the editor who published his previous book and she, too, rejected it. But get this. The author’s previous novel had been optioned, found its way into a screenplay, and then into an Academy-Award-winning movie. Needless to say, after this particular manuscript was soundly rejected, he and a bottle of scotch spent some serious time on the couch.
I just saw this author at a writer’s conference, where he presented. He’s still writing. He’s still getting published. He’s still at it.
So the thing about rejection is somehow you have to handle it, get it out of your system and get back at it. Punch pillows. Line up pints of Ben & Jerry’s and plow through them. Run like you’re Forrest Gump. Whatever works for you, just do it.
Because in the end, we writers have to scrape ourselves off the pavement, stash that chocolate-caramel smeared spoon in the dishwasher, and strap ourselves to the chair. If we don’t, we’ll get all gummed up with words and stories, and we won’t be able to finish any manuscript.
And that, my friends, is far worse than rejection.