Every hopeful writer knows about the special rejection spawned by the literary world.
It’s not a big deal after a while. It’s an undercurrent flowing through your creative life, but one that’s relegated to its own ignominious cesspool. So when I see people tweeting and blogging and otherwise digitally whining about how undeserved or unkind rejection is, I have to stop and analyze my own reaction to its various faces. Bear in mind, this isn’t necessarily reality…only my interpretation of it. And since it makes me happy, I’m loathe to abandon it.
The fact is, rejection occurs on many different levels when it comes from publishers and agents; somewhat akin to Dante’s levels of Hell. Let’s reflect on the path to success by investigating failure…beginning at the bottom and clawing our way upwards. Today, we visit the dregs, the bottom, the base of the rejection pyramid.
A low point in rejection is silence. No reaction at all. Inside your head a tiny, malevolent voice squeaks, “See? Your work is completely negligible.”
Then it goes for the coup de grace. “YOU’RE completely negligible.”
If you enjoy wallowing in a moment of self-pity, go ahead. Sometimes a little inner angst can be fun. You can use it for the next tortured character you write. But then, kick that little voice in the nuts…realize it has none…and recognize it for what it is: a nothing that could mean anything.
Maybe your submission got lost in the mail, or was eaten by internet gremlins.
Maybe the recipient was sidelined by salmonella, or a vacation, or death. Depending on your proclivity for anger, revenge, or forgiveness, take a moment to imagine whichever fate restores your equanimity.
Or maybe…just maybe…you didn’t follow the submission guidelines.
Or maybe…just maybe…your query was so out there, it’s now making the rounds of the recipient’s water cooler crowd, which today means any of the proliferation of social networks, garnering raised eyebrows and vicariously embarrassed giggles.
Choose one of the above possibilities. Go back. Investigate. Rework. Try again. Because this particular rejection isn’t failure. It’s a wakeup call to develop professional skills like discipline, attention to detail, and persistence.
As someone once said: “There’s a word for writers who don’t give up…PUBLISHED.”
Next time, let’s look at what other delightful genres of rejection await one step up from silence. Oh, goody…