Dealing with Rejection
Well I’ve been out of town for a week with no wi-fi, and to be honest it feels like a hundred years. I’ve got an epic case of jet lag and my tiny tot, confused by the time change, rose for the day at 3:30 this morning. So, I’m in kind of a slow head space, which can be a good thing, sometimes thinking slowly is best. And I was thinking, for today’s post, that I’d like to touch back on what I was saying last week about the third thing a writer needs, grit. I mean, it’s ever so easy for me to type that you just need to toughen up buttercup; but the more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get rejected. Sometimes the rejections don’t hurt, and sometimes they do. Sometimes it can get you down in the mouth. You know deep down that you need to keep trying, but how do you shake off that fear that manifests as needling anxiety…
…or hangdog moroseness?
What is that fear, anyway?
Fear of being rejected! Of course. But no. That’s the easy answer that doesn’t tell you anything. That’s like saying an agoraphobic woman doesn’t like being in elevators because she can’t handle small spaces. Yes. Of course. But something deeper is going on with her, and there is something deeper going on with you, the fear-bitten writer. Why do you fear being rejected?
…But we’ll come back to that.
What is the process of submission about? Why, it’s about writing a Damn Fine Story. It’s about researching markets and finding the best fit for that DFS. It’s about sending that DFS out with an nicely tailored cover letter to the appropriate address. And after that?
After that, it’s about momentum. It’s about luck. It’s about catching the right editor at the right time with your DFS, one who happens to be pulling together an issue themed around something your DFS touches on, and — Oh Providence! — your DFS also happens to be the right length to fill that last slot to round out the issue.
All of these elements are outside yourself, and they are all things your ego, proud child that it is, does not understand. Ego wants, it suffers, it consumes but is never sated. Success is always a fleeting buzz for the ego, it only truly relishes the sting of rejection. Because the ego is designed to protect you, it likes to have something to get angry about, something that will justify snapping your heart shut like a venus flytrap, the better to slowly digest that rejection. We’ve all got an ego, and writers have one louder than most (after all, we honestly believe we’ve something original to say), but living at its mercy is nothing but misery.
How to get your ego in check? Well, for starters, if you’d like a straight-up cold shower, Coquette’s post On Greatness and Killing Your Ego might appeal. If you’re feeling a little more fragile, you may want to visit one of Dear Sugar’s most famous columns instead. I also really like this short guide by a yoga instructor outlining three things to do to help free yourself from your ego’s miserable grip.
You cannot exist in the future. You can only exist in the now. You can’t control the future; you can only control yourself, your actions. And what you can do is write, and submit, and write.
Aristotle said: We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.