Even when you suspect it might come, it has way of getting a kick into your guts before you have time to put up defences. My latest rejection arrived just as I’d finished uploading a lovely selfie of my husband and me at the airport on the way to a concert in Napier to see the Dixie Chicks. The email came in on my phone. I was excited to hear from my agent. But before I could arm myself, the blow of his ‘they don’t want it’ hit me. Hard. Followed closely by the hot blanket of disappointment.
I had been mindful during all of this past week that a shadow of waiting was hovering in the scary rooms of my mind: rooms I have labelled ‘Doubt,’ ‘Poor self-esteem,’ ‘Billy no Mates aka No one loves you and you will never be good enough.’ Those rooms have plenty of boxes of disappointments.
What did I do? Told hubby, who worried. (He got his tissues from his pocket – he is an old hand at this). Then I contacted a couple of writing buddies. They too have trod this well-worn writing/creating path of hill tops and troughs and said just the right things. No dismissing the disappointment but an acknowledgement that rejection ‘sucks…and blows.’
On the plane, an hour later, I thought about the others in my writing life who may also be affected by the sting of this rejection. Firstly, my agent who got the news before me so he’s had to sit with it longer. (We probably mutually hate having to be the cause of letting each other down. I feel bad that I’ve failed him; he probably feels a bit like that too but I would hazard that, just as I would tell him not to be silly, he would say the same to me.)
Secondly, my beta readers who have given up lunchtimes to sit around school desks to enthusiastically discuss and argue the merits of why Charlie must, should, could say/do/believe something. I feel I have let them down, too.
Finally, fellow writers who look to me as a beacon of hope. As an exemplar of how persistence and hard work get you there in the end. I hate having to show them that, no matter how many times there are wins, there are always gut dropping losses.
Currently, many of my students are working on assessments. Some of them are doing everything I’ve asked of them, and I know they will do well; some of those still won’t gain the mark they want. One or two have not paid attention in class, have not been engaged with the learning, and/or have clashed with me. And yet, despite this, will do well with little study or effort. Most writers I know confess to holding a small seed of resentment toward people like this who seem to do little toward the hard, physical labour of constructing a beautiful narrative and yet everything they touch blossoms and wins ‘best in show.’ My attitude toward these writers, like those students of mine who succeed in spite of me, is to acknowledge that not everyone has to struggle to achieve success. That natural ability is a gift. Lucky them.
Thankfully, I’ve been around the traps long enough to eventually wear each publishing rejection with pride. I’ve only ever had one novel ‘accepted’ straight away. Every single novel, bar Bastion Point, has garnered at least one rejection. Some of these initially ‘rejected’ novels have gone onto be best sellers and win awards. I remind myself that a rejection slip is no measure of my worth or the worth of my characters. They are in good company. So am I.
Thank goodness for writers like Chuck Wendig who provides 'comic' relief for such times. Read his post on dealing with rejection. Warning about language because it IS Chuck.
It still hurts. I gave my very best and I love what I wrote but someone else did not love it as much as me. I don’t yet know the details why but that won’t change things now. I will do what I tell my writing students to do – write it down. Use my words to make sense of my feelings and thoughts and then share it with the world. Oh, and keep writing my novel. It’s a good one. Promise.