I’ve read a lot of posts on rejection, lately, both here on WU and elsewhere. Understandably– it’s a common topic, because if you want to get into the writing business, the odds are about 99% certain that you WILL face the snake-bite sting of rejection at some point. And probably more than once– because the truth is that these days (unless you’re outrageously, spectacularly successful, and sometimes not even then) even if you land a publishing contract once, you will still likely have to go through another round of submissions on your second project. And third, and fourth. And every time, the spectre of possible rejection hovers near.
A couple of months ago, I read a post by a lovely, wise, talented author whose book was in the process of being rejected all over town, and it took me back to the days before I landed my first contract, when I was in exactly her shoes. It made me ask myself what advice I would give to my then-self from my perspective now. I started out trying to frame a comment on her post, but soon found that the comment was evolving into post-length– so here it is. My thoughts on rejection, having faced it WAY more times than I can possibly count over the course of my so-far 10 years writing career– and knowing absolutely that I will face it again.
First of all, the title of this post– I honestly think it’s the single most important question you can ask yourself in the face of rejection. Maybe even the most important question of your writing career. Rejection sucks. It really, really does. It’s painful and hurtful and embarrassing– whether you’re getting a rejection from an agent, a publisher, or just negative feedback from a critique partner or writing group. And I think our tendency as writers (at least my personal tendency) is to want to dig deep into that– think about it, analyze it, describe how it feels, both to ourselves and others. We’re writers; we process things by putting them into words. So I get it if rejection makes you feel like hiding under the blankets–or on writing message boards– and constructing brilliant, poetic similes to describe how you felt on opening the e-mail from the agent/publisher/critique partner. Really I do. I’d even say go for it if it makes you feel better. But I think the most important first step you can take when facing a rejection is to ask not, How do I feel now? (Or the congruent question: What the blankety-blank-blank is wrong with this agent/publisher/critique partner?) The important question is: Where do I go from here? [Read more…]