Some Thoughts On Rejection
A few weeks ago I dropped my new cell phone into the toilet I was cleaning. Yes, I am a klutz. But some of you out there have done it, too. If not, I’m sure you can imagine that feeling. It’s kind of how you feel when you get a rejection letter. So, yeah, not so fun. Anyone who’s writing for publication knows what it’s like to be rejected or receive not-so-great contest scores. It’s part of the process. So if you’re a new writer, I’m going to use the analogy to help you know what to expect, and what you need to do about it.
1. Down the phone goes with a splash, breaking apart and settling in the bottom of the bowl. What a horrible, sinking feeling! That rejection letter can have the same result—the bad feeling in your stomach telling you that you messed up.
2. You’re tempted to just flush it. It’s ruined. No good. A complete waste. Don’t do it! You’ll regret it later.
3. You decide to save it—heroically plunging your hand into the water and coming up with the broken pieces. After hunting down a fan, you strategically place the pieces in front of it. You can save this thing. It’s your baby. It’s brave and beautiful and underappreciated. You might rage a little at the toilet who took it away from you. The editor who didn’t see the brilliance. The agent who wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them.
4. Then you realize that was a cliché, and so the real culprit must be you. You’re a loser. All that money was wasted. Your phone will never come back to life, and you’re not due an upgrade for a couple years. The conference you just went to didn’t bring you a contract. Instead, it showed you all the things you’re doing wrong. You’ll never make it. Your writing is as worthless as the waterlogged phone.
5. You can’t talk to anyone for a while. The phone is out of order. It’s kind of depressing. You dread telling your husband because you just know he’s going to say, “I knew something like this would happen. It’s not worth the investment.”
6. But he doesn’t. Instead, he offers a hug. Maybe even some chocolate. And you realize that life as you know it isn’t necessarily over. You have options.
7. He tells you to put the battery in a bag of rice. Set it aside for a few days. Maybe you need to step back from your manuscript. Give it some breathing room. Allow yourself to process any comments that were given. Maybe they’re not totally off the wall. Maybe they are. Wait, then look it over with fresh eyes and see.
8. Maybe it just needs some time, some tweaks, and then it’s ready to go again. Maybe it needs a lot more than that. It might take some money to fix—a professional critique. More writing books or classes.
9. Maybe it truly does need scrapped. That’s okay. It happens to almost everyone, but it’s not wasted time. (Okay, so my illustration is starting to not quite fit here, but work with me, people.) You can learn from your mistakes. In fact, you probably learn better that way. If the old phone is truly dead, go out and buy a new one. Start a new story, applying the lessons you’ve learned. You’ll end up with a better product in the end.
So when the rejection letters come in, don’t worry. Yeah, you’re allowed to quietly rage for a few moments. But then get back in the game. Put your phone back together or buy a new one—after all, you’ll need it when you get The Call.
Jenness Walker has always loved a good story. Today she doesn’t feel complete if there’s not a book nearby. Jenness has a B.A in education and a minor in creative writing. Her debut novel, Double Take, releases from Steeple Hill in October. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her website-designer husband, playing with her part-time dog, and planning trips to explore small-town