Friday, December 16, 2011

Surviving Rejection

I recently came across a Twitter post where the tweeter suggested there should be a workshop of sorts called, Surviving Rejection. Kind of a how-to approach to dealing with a writer's worst fear. That someone does not see the vision they worked so hard on.

I've been thinking about this ever since.

How do we survive rejection? Why don't we all just curl up in the fetal position and pray the creativity is stripped from us?

I guess the first question is to ask yourself, why? Why do we do it in the first place? Because we want to tell a story. Because we want to have our voices heard in a way that hasn't been done before. To put your own spin on the world and hopefully, in some way, find meaning.

This begs the question, why do we write for other people? Why not just keep your thoughts closeted in a drawer or stuck safely away in a folder on your hard drive? Why do we want people to notice?

Because we're suckers. We like the pain, because it makes us feel as though we are still doing something. That we have come into our own as a writer. Face it, if we weren't getting rejections, it would mean we weren't submitting anything for the world to see, and in turn, how can we call ourselves writers if we aren't trying? Just because someone sits down and writes a letter to a long lost friend, doesn't mean he's a writer. Just because someone journals everyday to deal with the demons in our past, doesn't mean she's a writer. Or does it?

What does the term writer really mean? A writer is someone who puts pen to paper and creates sentences, and then paragraphs, then stories. Fact or fiction.

I've heard it said, if you want to be a writer you have to write. Seems simple enough. But then the only way to make the world (or your friends) really believe you're a writer, and for you to really believe it, you have to send stuff out. You have to face the rejection all writers face. You have to feel demoralized and doubt your talent.

Doesn't seem fair does it?

So we branch out. We send stuff off in the hopes of getting it published. And then we wait. And we wait and we wait. Our heads create all possible scenarios. They're taking a really long time to get back to me because they are considering it. They lost it. The post office lost it. They stole it. It's been published somewhere under someone else's name.

Oh we can dream up anything. Because we're writers and we have the imagination to do so.

Finally, the email or letter arrives. You're still imagining all possible scenarios. They liked it, they didn't. They want to offer you the biggest advance you could dream of. It's just THAT good. Your heart pounds, you tear into the envelope or double click the email.

Thank you for allowing, (insert publication here) to consider your work. We regret that we are unable to accept it at this time. Although we would like to respond to each submission individually...yada, yada, yada.

The words become a blur. A big black smudge on the screen.

Then you continue to imagine. What was wrong with it? How could they not like it? Why, why, why?
You begin to doubt yourself. I'll never be a writer. Who am I kidding? What a waste of time and energy?

You go to the cupboard and pull down that big bottle of wine you've been saving for a special occasion. Screw it. Gonna get drunk now. (By the way, I really believe that's why there's a close relationship between writers/artists and alcoholism.)

But guess what? It's okay to mourn. It's okay to feel sorry for yourself for awhile. It's okay to question your self-worth.

It's okay.

Anything worth doing isn't easy. There will be obstacles. Rejection is just one of them. The simple fact remains, if after you come out of your drunken delirium you still want to be a writer, you have to keep going. Keep trying. If at first you don't succeed...yeah, yeah. We've all heard it. But it's true.

Many seasoned writers will tell you, the moment you get a rejection, send it out again. And keep sending it out.

I've also heard it said, every rejection brings you that much closer to an acceptance. Some writers have had one story rejected twenty plus times before it was finally accepted.

Listen to your peers. Listen to those who have been doing this for a long time. They know what they're talking about.

You're not a bad writer.

You just haven't gotten enough rejections yet.

Oh and if I were to teach a workshop on would involve a lot of alcohol and tissues.

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