Rejection is never an easy thing. And, in either a good sense of humor or irony, writers have chosen a path wrought with rejection. It is filled to the brim with it, waiting around nearly every corner; yet, we stand back up each day and try to push forward.
It is also a very difficult thing to explain. A lot of times, other people put the rejection from an agent or editor in the same field as being rejected by one’s peers or that you just didn’t get picked this time. But to us in the middle of it, rejection hits us a little harder than all that.
So what is rejection to a writer?
I think one of the many definitions for it is the delay of sharing what is so dear to us. If you do any amount of research into the publishing industry, you will quickly learn that, more often than not, it can be a very slow moving process. So the rejection from an agent or editor is the disappointing “not today” that a person, who so desperately wants to share something meaningful, never wants to hear.
While I am sure there are many people who are simply born with a thick skin and can take on any rejection as a form of encouragement, adding fuel to the creative fire, there are others, like myself, that can let rejection eat away at their confidence.
It starts off as mere disappointment, but then slowly the whispers creep into our brains and lead to more dangerous things like doubt. We begin to doubt our work, our writing capabilities, and ourselves, which, when we take a look at our doubt, can lead to guilt and endless ruts.
In the process of submitting our work and receiving rejection, we can lose sight of what’s important. We become more concerned with the acceptability of our work than what is beautiful about it. We lose focus on belief, and worry about what we cannot change.
It is true that agents and editors are looking for what sells, but, ultimately, they are looking for what grips them and inspires them. And as much as we would love for our work to be inspiring for every one, the reality is that there will be people who won’t connect with that you have to say, and that is okay.
So when we are faced with rejection, always bear in mind that unless you pressed “send” the day you finished your first draft, that agent or editor may have passed because they knew your story needed someone who could share that passion, because, frankly, nothing is ever truly sold or done well without passion.
That is the true answer to rejection.
When you can feel the subtle crawling of doubt, take a good long look at your work and ask yourself what was it about this piece that made me have to write it? What was it that convinced me to dedicate hours, days, months, even years to writing it? And when that familiar feeling echoes in your mind, hone in on it, focus on it, remember it, and then amplify it, because that revelation is the recalling of the passion you had in the beginning, and we already know that nothing great happens without it.
Recently, I was prepping a query, and this particular agent asked for the first page of the manuscript, along with the query letter. As I opened up the document to copy the first page, I was immediately met with a reminder of why I wrote this book, why I believed in it. I have already faced a handful of rejections, and the last two were from agents I was convinced were perfect for my book. But, suddenly, as I stared at this story, none of that really mattered, anymore. I remembered why this story existed; I remembered why I dedicated years to it. It was then I remembered why I loved it. In the stressful process of submission, I had forgotten the fundamental thing that started this journey, but in that moment I remembered the passion that had made it, I knew it had a reason for being written.
The doubts I was faced with began to fall apart because I knew the truth: those words existed by their own right. They belonged because this story mattered to me.
When we think about passion, we should open our eyes to the fact that it belongs everywhere.
This is what I mean:
Are you writing a first draft? Great! Write every sentence as a reflection of why you love this piece. Are you editing? Then trim, cut, and rewrite the piece in hopes of making it even better. Make this a labor of love. Even if you are querying, look for agents or editors you want to share a passion with.
Far too often do we, writers, view agents and editors as gatekeepers, but the fact is they are not obstacles in our way, but rather they are allies and supporters. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be partners with someone who has a common goal and drive as you? This is when query becomes less of a road to publishing and more of a quest to find someone who loves and cares for your work almost as much as you do.
Therefore, in rejection, always come back to your first love because someday someone will see that passion, and that will pull at something within him or her, and they will feel compelled to join you on this crazy adventure.
It is true that a huge part of a writer’s career will be filled with rejection, and for some it is easy to deal with it, but for others, me included, rejection can become a pitfall. However, when we plant our feet firmly into the confidence and passion of our work, rejection will become less of a hard hitting blow and more of a small annoyance, because, if you strongly believe that what you have to say, whether it’s a story, poem, essay, or even a greeting card, is important and needs to be said, you will find yourself growing in stubborn defiance in the face of the negative feelings that come from rejection.
Ralph Waldo Emerson put it very well when he once wrote, “Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.”
That is what we all have to do. Every rejection should send us straight to the reasons why we love what we are doing. With every reflection, our confidence will grow, and as it grows there lies hope.
It will take practice, endurance, and, of course, a few stumbles, but you will soon learn to look at every rejection and say “Well, that’s a shame, but I guess that means there is something even better for me out there.” Let the lack of acceptance cultivate a fire within you to keep you going, which, in practical terms, can be achieved when you find the fire has already been lit and it dwells in your passion for your work.
Guard that flame, shield it from the wind, but most importantly, keep it growing.
So I will end this with a quote from German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who so poignantly said, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.
Go on; get back to writing, editing, querying, and when rejection approaches remember that passion that makes your work “great”.
As always, my friends, good luck and Godspeed.
P.S. This topic is a rather broad one; so if you have thoughts on this, please, leave comments. I do love a good discussion.