Rejections that Truly Matter

Having witnessed and experienced a variety of rejections since the beginning of 2011, I am reminded how important it is to distinguish between the rejections that matter and those which bear little significance in comparison. These past few months, I have spent hours at a hospital in North Carolina, caring for my parents, while witnessing people deal with life-and-death rejections: the rejections that matter. When I sit for long hours, waiting for doctors, I quickly find myself talking to others around me, whose courage is deeply inspiring. I cannot imagine losing a young child, or being unable to get needed medicine, or not being allowed to see my grandchildren. Yet the people I spoke with have dealt with these situations, all due to rejections: rejections by insurance companies, transplant rejections, and rejections by family members. So when I hear of writers complaining about getting a rejection, it makes me, well, cringe.

To be a writer, you must experience rejection, it is part of the business, and while it may sting, it is not a matter of life-or-death. It is possibly a matter of not being the right fit.  

Whatever the reason for the rejection, move forward and appreciate the fact that you got a response from an editor or agent. Someone took the time to read your work. You are no longer waiting and wondering, checking your mailbox or e-mail. You can rework the piece, send it elsewhere, or stick it in a drawer. You are not dying, or longing to see a grandchild you have never met, or in need of medicine to survive.

Be thankful for that.

As for myself, this past week, I have enjoyed the beautiful sights in North Caroline: the painted murals in the doctor’s office, the blooming trees and flowers, yet to appear where I live in Connecticut. These small joys offset the struggles I face here, and for this, I am grateful.

For  Free Fall Friday, here is the link for this week:

Rejection: A Reason to Reassess

My husband does not usually ask me questions about my writing. He allows me my space. He understands when I hold up my do-not-disturb hand because I am deep into the character’s head. He is patient when I disappear for hours on end, laughing alone with a story, or crying as I write something particularly difficult or emotional.

When John learned he would be laid off in the beginning of 2010, he was suddenly curious about how I handled rejection letters, and why I never got upset or took it personally. I told him it is a matter of having a positive attitude, and making conscious choices about how you react. For the first time, I showed him the binder where I keep my rejection letters, carefully filed by date and editor. It is a binder I am proud of. It reminds me that I tried against all odds. It shows my determination. My belief in my work.

I have known what rejection looks like since I was a little girl and the mailman would try to push one of my father’s rejected manuscripts through a thin slot in our front door. I would stand there watching the manilla envelope rip as the mailman struggled to force it through the slot. I would pray that he would give up and try again on Monday so our weekend wouldn’t be ruined by my father receiving the bad news. Inevitably, the mailman knocked on our door.  And not only did I have to sign for the package, I was the messenger.  The expression on my father’s face after I handed him his mail on those particular Saturday mornings are images I will never forget.  

Perhaps those memories shaped how I view my personal rejections. I do not see them as that. I see the letters in my binder as reasons to celebrate. They are letters I have learned from, letters which have encouraged me, letters which have shaped my growth as a writer. For every editor who gave me a small piece of their time and attention, or asked for revisions, which allowed my mind to stretch in new ways, or kept a door open for other work, I am forever grateful. 

Rejection is simply a word that begins with the letters re, and I try to use rejection in a positive way. It leads me to other words beginning with the letters re: revision, reassessment, rejoice, and resolution, among others.

I start by reading the rejection. Once or twice. I put the manuscript and the letter away. I rest my mind. I relish in reading or painting or sewing or beading necklaces.  And then I re-evaluate. I renew my promise to my character to write the best I can.  I reassess my writing and then rejoice in the process of revision. I resolve to keep trying, keep learning, and to always reach higher.

In the case of a job, rejection or being laid-off can offer you a reason to change your life. To reach for a goal, long forgotten. To remember what truly made you happy.

The loss of a job is terrifying–at the very least–but a door opens, and with the right attitude, you will find yourself walking through that door and into a new world. A new year. New possibilities. A more meaningful life.

Step through open doors with courage and conviction. The worst that can happen is you get a rejection.

At least, you tried.

For anyone interested in an editor’s take on rejection letters, click on the link for Editor Alvina Ling’s blog. It is well worth the read. Thank you, Alvina, for sharing your process and insight with writers.