Your dreams may not materialize on your time line, or maybe you’ll encounter a Dream Terminator sent from the future to crush your hopes. You’ll likely receive disappointing contest scores at times, complete with snarky comments. One of my good friends received a multiple page manifest from a contest judge that said she would make it her personal mission to insure my friend never was published in the United States… or Canada. LOL. I guess the rest of the world is okay, though.
You’ll receive rejections on queries, partials and fulls, some Hemingway himself might have penned were he alive. “Not. For. Me.” (I imagine a booming voice from the skies here.) Doesn't that give you goose bumps?
Like me, you may get, Oops, I made a mistake in insinuating I wanted to represent you. Oh, you don’t want me to represent you? Well, in that case, maybe we should talk about me representing you. I’ll call you next week. Never heard from him again. Reminds me of a bad relationship I had in college.
Speaking of mistakes… Once I was notified that I had won a contest only to have it retracted in the next email I opened. That was a fleeting moment of happiness. Apparently I’m the lightening rod for bizarre mistakes. But here are some of the things that have helped me to maintain my sanity and hope over the years when that Big R has arrived in my email inbox.
1. A great group of friends. A good support system will let you wallow, completely take your side, and validate what a shortsighted moron, mean-spirited harpy or clueless goofball the rejecting person is. However, you’re only allowed 24 hours to whine. A good group of friends then kicks you in the rump, orders you back to your writing desk, and helps you weigh the value of any feedback contained in your rejection letter.
2. Laughter. Thirteen years ago I took a tap dance class with a friend. Little did we realize when signing up for the class that our teacher had a hearing deficit that made it impossible for her to hear the word no. So, there we were. The only two adults in a kid’s dance recital. And we were both pregnant.
At the rehearsal, there were these mothers lurking in the dark audience snickering. Well, apparently they critiqued our performance and gave the notes to our teacher. The only thing on the list was “Please, please, wear a bra!” (I want to go on record that I wasn’t the one going braless.) I found their comment mortifying. I wanted to drop out of the show, but my friend made a joke about their snarkiness, and we went on to perform the next night. I was scared out of my wits, but also very proud of my bravery. Turns out we were trailblazers, because the next year our teacher had ten adults in the show. They'd all signed up for classes because of us.
For several weeks after the performance, my friend would see me at work, run up and cry, “Please, for the love of God, put on a bra!” She taught me that humor can soothe the sting of criticism. Now, I have this wonderful tale of dancing on stage, braless (not really) and pregnant. Not many people can make such a claim, or would want to, but our critics’ only claim to fame is sitting in the dark and finding fault with others. What an act of cowardice to hide behind anonymity and point out the failings of others.
3. Stubbornness. Rejection and criticism are NOT good predictors of future success. Determination is. I had a very down time earlier this year where my doubts almost got the best of me. Was I fooling myself? Was I wasting my time? Maybe I needed to accept the truth that I wasn't good enough. I would never be published. But I kept going back to these authors I met in Chicago that said they had been on the brink of giving up when they received the call. So I asked myself another question, “Could this be that time in my career?” Thank goodness, I didn’t give up, because an online pitch a short time later paid off. I can’t guarantee everyone’s journey will run the same course, but I can confidently say only the ones to stay in the race will cross the finish line.
What are some of your thoughts on rejection and how to survive it?