I made a pact with myself at the beginning of the year that I would dedicate this year to moving from a writer with a tepid appetite for rejection to one that faces it and welcomes it with open arms. It’s not that I have a tall pile of rejection slips to hide behind. Rather, the thought of the rejection has been enough to keep me writing in the corners of my life simply saving the files to live in the hard drives and thumb drives of our digital world. I’ve thought about all the other things I have been afraid to face (timid is not an adjective that I often make a pact with) and how I simply made the decision to overcome and inch by inch worked through the terror, the fear, the realization that the biggest obstacle was usually me and eventually got to a place where I could savor the accomplishment. Why not do the same with writing?
Probably the first reason is that unlike an athletic accomplishment or career advancement, writing is incredibly personal and exposed. Rejection is hard to hold at arm’s distance so that it doesn’t hurt. It is hard to intellectualize and be objective. I’m not good at parsing or compartmentalizing or accepting that my work wasn’t a good fit, a casualty of timing, etc. It’s hard not to take rejection of the written word personally. Because writing is a personal art, a unique amalgamation of personality, voice, rhythm, perspective and vision. When you release your work for others to rate, judge, accept or reject it takes a certain body of armor to come out unscathed. Yet, the stories abound of writers that we now revere being beaten down by rejection after rejection, and still they kept at it. The only way to figure out if you aspire to write for yourself, in my mind a noble and perhaps the most redeeming and beneficial type of writing; or if you are writing for a larger audience is to send your work out into the world and see if the wind catches its sails and sends it on a new journey or sends it back to you for safe keeping.
Back to my commitment: This year I will submit some work, some manuscript, some proposal every month with every expectation that it will be sent back to me. My expectation is that at a minimum 12 out of 12 submittals will be rejected and that rejection will become an everyday part of being a writer. (FYI: So far, so good.) I envision that the mean, shadowy figure of rejection will no longer stand looming over me with a wagging finger pointing out my various faults and shortcomings. I will face it as a game of strategy and endurance, egging me on to find the perfect pairing of what and where to submit, while expanding my imagination and/or the manuscripts at my beck and call. Should they all find a slack wind or a strong gust sending them back for safe harbor, then I will welcome them home, apply salve to their cuts and bruises, and prepare them for either retirement or a future re-charted voyage.
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.” ― Barbara Kingsolver
© 2013 Kelly Tweeddale