Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I Got Those Low-Down, Sad and Lonely, No-Sleep, Cold-Coffee, Can't Seem to Sell Anything Rejection Blues
Three guesses what I got in the mail last week. And the first two don't count.
Two of the last three stories I've sent to a particular magazine have been rejected.
I sulked for a day. I wallowed for a few more. I tried to write something else and couldn't get the synapses to fire so I gave up -- just temporarily -- and read a couple books instead.
Have I lost my touch? Am I out of sync with the editor's needs? Is it just bad timing? Has my luck run out? Should I go buy a lucky rabbit's foot just in case?
Now's a good time to write about dealing with rejection I suppose. I doubt there's a writer among us who hasn't received a rejection letter. Mine read "Dear Contributor, Thank you for sending your story to us. Although your manuscript was given careful attention by our editorial staff, we regret that it does not meet our needs at this time. We appreciate your interest in our magazine and encourage you to not lose heart in your writing. We wish you the best of luck. Please feel free to submit further material to us. Sincerely, The Editors."
Lose heart? To quote from Mel Brooks's "The Producers" -- If your intention was to shoot an arrow through my heart... bulls-eye!
Dealing with rejection is rather like dealing with grief because in its own way, a rejection is a loss. It's a loss of hope, a loss of expectation, a loss of belief in yourself.
And how do you work through this loss? You progress through nine phases and end up back in the saddle with your expectations restored, your self-belief firing on all cylinders and your hopes high.
Maestro, cue the music!
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant, can't move a rubber tree plant.
But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes.
He's got high apple pie in the sky hopes.
So any time you're gettin' low 'stead of lettin' go just remember that ant.
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.
Phase 1: Denial
You're shocked, stunned and in need of oxygen. How could anyone have rejected your story? This can't be right. Denial is nature's way of trying to protect your psyche. To get through this, just work on accepting that your work has been rejected, not you as a person.
Phase 2: Bargaining
What if I'd... In dealing with grief, this is usually a dead-end alley. No amount of bargaining will change things. But with a rejected manuscript, you might have a little bargaining power if the editor asked for revisions or if there's another place to submit it. If not, stop with the "what if's" and move on. Try to learn from the experience and apply those lessons forward to your next project.
Phase 3: Loneliness
Here comes the "Woe is me" part. You feel isolated and your self-worth takes a beating. You're sure you are the only person whose manuscript was ever rejected. At this point, you should surround yourself with people who care about you. If you are part of a writers' group, let them know about your rejection and I'm willing to bet my retirement account they'll rally around and tell you (a) you're not the only one ever rejected and (b) you're special to them regardless.
Phase 4: Heartbreak
Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It's down at the end of lonely street at Heartbreak Hotel.
Despite working on phases 1 through 3, you still find yourself crying and feeling awful. You might try listening to upbeat music or doing an activity that you really, really enjoy. If you seem to have taken out a long-term lease on a room at that hotel, you may need to literally try snapping yourself out of your funk by putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when you start sinking under the covers at the end of lonely street. Here's where your support group comes back into the picture. Reach out to them again and tell them how you're feeling.
Phase 5: Depression
If you don't check out of Heartbreak Hotel, it's easy to sink into the Depression Dungeon. This is where you not only feel sad and worthless, but you wallow. You schlep around the house in the same pajamas for three days and eat Beenie Weenies straight from the can for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call the support group back in! Keep busy. Exercise. Go out to lunch with a friend. Get a manicure and/or pedicure. Try a little retail therapy (but not too much because you don't want to get depressed about next month's credit card bill). If this doesn't work, seek help from a counselor or your doctor.
Phase 6: Blame
When the really intense feelings of denial and loneliness and heartbreak go away, then you start playing The Blame Game.
I'll take "I Stink" for $100, Alex. Give me "My Worthless CP" for $500. How about "Editors Who Don't Know a Good Manuscript When They See One" for $1000?
Your emotions are running high right now so turn off the game and stop the destruction. Remember there are two sides to every situation. Think about what you've learned from the rejection and how you can improve the current manuscript and write an even better one next time. But put all the game pieces back in the box and throw it away.
Phase 7: Anger
How dare they reject me? Has that agent/editor lost his/her mind? You can hang out here, but only for a little while. Go outside and throw rocks at a tree. Stomp around the house. Cuss if you will. This can be cathartic and letting all the anger out is liberating. Otherwise you end up with an ulcer the size of an inner-city ghetto and just as nasty. But put a time limit on the anger. Tell your friends to get on your case if you let it go on too long because if you don't move on, you risk becoming bitter. And nobody likes to be around a bitter person.
Phase 8: Acceptance
Okay, the manuscript wasn't perfect. It wasn't a good match for that particular line. The middle sagged. The GMC was all wrong. It wasn't right. IT wasn't right, but you're okay. And you'll be even better because you learned from the experience.
Phase 9: Healing
You're done with denial, bargaining, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, blame and anger. You've accepted the situation. Now you heal and move forward with an open mind (and heart) and focus on the next project. You know it was only your manuscript that was rejected, not you as a person. Your group of friends who have rallied around you are still your friends -- perhaps even closer friends for having weathered this storm together. Good for you! Now get your fanny back in that chair and start writing!
You know, I think I've made myself feel a little better by writing this. Maybe I'll pull out my idea file and see what clicks (if I can find it -- my new filing cabinet was delivered yesterday and my office is currently in a state of disarray while I move files, clean out stuff and move books from one bookcase to another). And while I'm at it, perhaps I should use PC's example from yesterday and start a "Yay Me!" and "Rah-Rah" file cause I was sure having a slug day.
How do you deal with rejection? Got any tips to add to my "9 Step Program?"
Posted by Playground Monitor at 1/24/2007 12:02:00 AM