On rejections

Rejections.

They suck, don’t they?

No matter the reason or situation, a rejection is always a painful thing. Whether someone is ending a romantic affair with us or a prospective employer is giving us a negative response, rejections hurt all the same. And it is no different when it comes to writing, sending a manuscript and getting that dreaded mail saying, ‘thank you but no’.

Writing is a very delicate business and every person attempting to walk that road must have a very thick skin to endure all the blows that will eventually come their way. Each and every writer will surely know that there’s no guaranteed happy ending to this adventure; that this satisfying I-made-it moment might never come; and that rejection letters will be the most common mail they will receive most of the time.

Why bother then? Why would someone choose to put their time, energy and heart in such a heartless industry? Well, first because we want to and second because we like love writing. Or the other way round.

I have always loved writing and telling stories. I have not done it consistently, though. Too often I’ve been put off by my own fears. I don’t know how to do it; I’m not good enough; I don’t have the time now; no one cares about what I have to say … I mastered all kind of excuses to hold myself back. Until I realised that those reasons were only that, excuses. No more and no less. Last year I decided that the time to write, to learn and improve as I go, to try my luck out there, was now. Not later when I’m finally an expert, have way too much free time, or have signed an amazing book deal. And I was doing fine, mind you. I wrote nearly every day, I managed to finish several short stories, I began to learn the tricks of editing and rewriting. And then I suddenly stopped and didn’t write anymore for nearly half a year.

What did happen, you may be wondering.

Well, I got a rejection that hurt badly. It wasn’t the first one but for some reason that one stung more than the all previous ones. Why? I’m not 100% sure but I believe that several reasons combined and made me extremely vulnerable at that particular moment. Like when the planets align, if you want.

What happened was that I wrote this story, edited and rewrote big chunks of it, did some more editing and when I was happy enough with it I sent it to some magazine out there. The magazine policies stated that most rejections were sent within two days, unless the story was under serious consideration, in which case they might take up to two weeks to reply. No answer reached my mailbox within two days and my spirits soared foolishly. Yep, my hopes were high, so when I finally received my rejection letter almost two weeks later I felt totally deflated. It was another thank-you-but-no situation and instead of seeing things the way they were, thinking of how far I’d come this time and cheering myself up, I took it all wrongly and let this small incident eat all my hopes and dreams. I was done with this writing thing. I must add that this story was a very personal one and that probably made me feel this rejection as something personal, instead of the usual business of someone saying that my story/writing/characters were not interesting/brilliant/strong enough. Besides, I was in the middle of pregnancy’s first trimester, so hormones may have also played a part.

So, what happened next? How do you cope with rejections?

I wish I knew. In fact, if you have any tips to get through the endless rejection letters that any writer seeking publication usually goes through, please let me know in the comments. Truth is, that other than having a thicker than thick skin, I don’t know how people deal with so much negative reactions to their work. I know, however, that one day I realised that I missed writing and one fine morning, while snow was falling outside, I sat in front of my laptop with a cup of hot tea and began to write again. I typed one word after another and one sentence after another. Eventually I ended up with some new stories that were willing to be given a chance in the big, wild out there. I might or might not have learnt how to cope with rejections but I’ve already submitted three stories in 2017 and I’m playing the waiting game again. Patiently and calmly.

There’s something I’ve learnt, though, about this tricky business of publishing. After much thinking I realised that editors are not these evil bunch of people that send rejection mails on default. They’re just trying to do their job the best they can and they better do so, for they have quality standards to maintain, they’re also putting themselves out there hoping their work will be recognised during the award season, and they’re facing rejection from their readers with every decision they take. Yes, they’re only humans working under rather stressful conditions and often not being credited or remunerated enough. And the thing is, that by doing their job the best they can, they’re also helping you to be the best writer you can. For you can be sure that when they finally pick up something you’ve written for publication, this something will be really worthy of their trust and the standards of their publications.

 

A lengthy post, this one. Kudos to you if you made it this far. Here’s a short story about publishing and rejections as a reward (not by me – it was written by Doug Hawley). Funnily enough, this appeared today on 365 tomorrows and I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

 

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