Dealing with Rejection

Jan 24, 2013   //   by Christina   //   Thoughts  //  No Comments

There are both easy and hard aspects to being a budding writer. Writing, itself, is easy because it is as natural to me as the regular inflation and deflation of my lungs. It is simply me taking bits and pieces of my self (my mind, my heart, my experiences, my hopes, my desires, my philosophy, my fears) and blending it through the lens of stories, both real and imagined, before pouring it out for public consumption.

Which leads me to the hardest part of writing: the rejection.

Rejection in more objective disciplines such as engineering or accounting tends to be straightforward. There is a right answer or a wrong one, it works or it doesn’t, the figures balance or they don’t. If there is a problem, one can figure out a solution, fix it, move on.

Rejection in a more subjective field such as art, music, dance, or writing is so different, and, for me, exponentially more devastating. Why? Because it is more personal. Each story I write contains so much of me in it, that I feel, whether this is logical or not, that they are rejecting me personally.

And, most of the time, I have no idea why. Is it because there is something inherently off in my writing? Is it because it is simply the wrong place to submit this particular story? Is there another reason I’m not aware of? Or is it all of the above? These are all questions I’ve posed incessantly as I’ve edited and re-edited my work.

At first, each rejection felt like a heavy-handed blow to the solar plexus, leaving me staggering, gasping for breath, debating whether or not I could pull myself upright and move forward knowing, knowing, that another blow was undoubtedly following close behind. I would scroll through the list of contributors for the literary magazines thinking, “What magic have these people wrought that they could claw their way to such a coveted place?” and despairing that I could ever find myself on such hallowed ground.

Then, one day, I received a long-awaited gift in my email: my first acceptance. I was flabbergasted, reading each word of the email over and over again, parsing it for hidden meanings, as I used to do whenever the boy of my dreams (however brief those dreams lasted) spoke to me. Somehow, the gates had opened, and I, stumbling, blinking owlishly at the light ahead, had somehow made it to hallowed ground.

The day after that, I received two more rejections.  That’s when I had my epiphany. Every single writer, even the ones I deeply admired, have had rejections. Such a simple obvious truth, but it took me years to understand what that really meant in my own life. I had spent so long comparing my failures to other’s successes I gave myself an inferiority complex. People proclaim their successes, but very rarely do they share their failures. For every success I compared myself to, how many rejections are hidden in the shadows?

So, what could I do whenever I received one of those dreaded “We are sorry to inform you” emails? Mope and whine and hide under the bedcovers declaring no one understands me? So what if they didn’t? Should that stop me from writing down precious pieces of my self and exposing them to the world like a shameless exhibitionist? I say, decidedly not.

Then, what’s a girl to do?  Keep on writing the stories inside of me and pray my level of writing improves with time and practice. If that means dealing with a constant flow of rejections interspersed with the occasional glorious acceptance, then so be it. Doesn’t mean each rejection still doesn’t hurt like crazy, but each punch doesn’t knock me so far down anymore and each lingering bruise has become a sort-of badge of honor a la Fight Club (I am Jack’s wilting self-confidence).

I received another rejection yesterday afternoon, ten minutes past my lunch break. I opened up the email, read it over quickly, then clicked over to the next email. “It’s ok,” I told myself, “Bandage the stinging sensation, move forward, edit, re-submit, it’s ok.”

And it really was.

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