Being a writer is 20% writing, 2% celebrating, and 78% gracefully handling rejection. Those are estimates. It sucks. Rejection of your work is soul-crushing. You’ve put yourself on the line, and you’re told no. Repeatedly. But it’s part of the game, and it’s typical and expected, especially for a new writer.
To become a published writer, you have to grow a very thick skin, and have a whole lot of unfounded confidence. You have to learn to sing your own praises, even if the proof is slim. But don’t forget to project yourself with humility and grace. In other words, go tell the world how awesome you are without sounding like an arrogant jerk.
It’s fortunate that writers are good with words.
Last night, before bed, I was greeted with two writing opportunities in my inbox. I had to set both aside because of my day job. I wanted to take both of them and shout YES! I DO want these jobs! I DO want to write for you!
But I’m not there yet.
Then I spent the night immersed in a dream where I journeyed through a labyrinth of a library, attacked by militants, mobbed by the press, and confronted by ex-lovers… all while wearing a ball gown that looked much like I’d draped curtains around myself. As I reached for each book – books I knew were written by me – I was accosted by some nemesis. Some of them simply stood in my way. Some were outright aggressive. Others were silver of tongue, leading me astray.
This is yet another form of rejection: Self rejection. It happens when we’re on the cusp. I watch my children experience this lack of conviction when standing on the diving board at the beginning of each summer. The water is cool and crisp, and the air is hot. They want to jump in, but they are unsure of what it might feel like. They’ve made that leap before, but it’s been so long that their minds have replaced the joy of swimming with the memory of shock and discomfort.
It has to be some sort of fucked-up survival instinct. We fear trying, even though we’ve succeeded in the past. I forget my accomplishments, and I remember the rejections. I dismiss publications as, “Yeah, that happened once.” I let the negative memories keep me from pushing forward.
I want to submit that article, but I’ve been rejected before. That story wasn’t good enough for The New Yorker, why would Vanity Fair treat me differently? I’ve queried one site about an idea, and they said no. How come another will accept it?
Because they will. Because eventually, with enough practice, patience and self-discipline, acceptance happens. The ball starts rolling. The world begins to see you as you want to be seen, rather than as what you currently are. You manifest your own destiny.
In Writer for Hire, Kelly James-Enger encourages resubmission. If a query is rejected, submit it to two alternate markets. If one agent says no, submit it to two others. Turn every rejection into two possible leads. I need to take this to heart. It’s time to stop thinking about it, and just start doing it.
It’s time to dive in. It’s time to say yes! It’s time to hit “submit”, and to try again, and again, and again.