I’m building one. Just don’t expect me to like it.
As I wrote about earlier, when I was laid off from my long-time workplace last August, I decided to use the time and the severance pay to work on my writing career. I’d start submitting to publications again. And I’d start querying one of my novels.
I believed that now that I’d suffered a very big and scary and genuinely life-changing type of rejection, being able to handle rejections from publications and agents would be a snap.
Ha! I’m funny.
The first couple of rejections stung. They were polite form rejections, but I still imagined the editors reading through my pieces, rolling their eyes, and quickly sending my submissions to the Trash file, probably muttering the words “Dunning-Kruger Effect” while doing so. Those polite emails were enough to put me in a shitty mood for the rest of the day. I knew it wasn’t personal, but it still sucked.
I realize that this flies in the face of how everyone tells you to deal with rejection. It’s supposed to be a great thing! You’re supposed to celebrate it! It means that you’re a Real Writer Who Put Yourself Out There!
Everyone tells you to collect your rejection notices and paper the walls with them, and I swear I’ve seen that quote about Stephen King and his spike in the wall approximately ten zillion times by now.
But that creative writing teacher I talked about (the delightful fellow who tossed my story in a wastebasket in front of the whole class) brought in a shoebox full of his rejections for a little classtime show-and-tell, and I don’t want to be that guy. I didn’t save any of the rejection letters I got back then. I won’t save the ones I get now, either.
I know it’s supposed to prove that you’re a real writer putting your work out there, but to me it feels like celebrating negative energy. I get it; rejection is a part of the entire process of trying to become a published author. It’s going to happen.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to fetishize the emails telling me that for whatever reason, my work wasn’t a good fit. I never saved letters telling me I didn’t get the job, or letters from exes telling me why they didn’t want to be with me anymore. Why would I do that with literary rejection letters?
Besides, now that I’m racking up rejections — and even the occasional acceptance! — I’m better about dealing with it all. I might sigh and go slam a kitchen cabinet door or two, but that’s it; I sit down and start looking up other places to submit to. Okay, maybe a beer is involved sometimes. Don’t judge me.
Then again, so many places are doing the “No response means no” thing these days that actual rejection emails are becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Maybe these should be preserved when one is fortunate enough to get one.
I get why people do this because everyone’s just so busybusybusy these days, but honestly, I don’t like it. I’m getting to the point that I’m thankful for a “This just isn’t right for me/us” note, because at least the sender ended any artificial hope-raising suspense. It’s hard for me to go to Querytracker or Duotrope and update a submission status to “Closed, No Response.” I keep thinking What if? That person said they were really backed up over on Twitter. Maybe I should give it another month before pulling the trigger.
One thing I have never done and never will do, though, is write back a rejecting agent or editor to argue with them or mock them because they didn’t recognize my great genius. I’ve always known better than that. You should too.
So I’ve gotten better about handling rejection this year.
Just don’t expect me to ever like it.