I used to have this horrible fear of rejection… that if I submitted anything I wrote, it would be read by others, judged, and then laughed at for being the worst drivel to ever be committed to a page. I was always afraid that I wasn’t good enough; that I was wasting my time, and that my writing would never take me anywhere. I say this because I had to face that fear yesterday. I received my first rejection letter.
Yes, it hurt like hell. Yes, I got mad. Yes, I got upset and wanted to cry and scream and throw a tantrum. Yes, I wanted to call the editor and yell at her and tell her she was a fool for not buying that story.
But I didn’t.
I had that moment of absolute panic – that knife-in-the-chest pain and the fear that I truly wasn’t ever going to be good enough to achieve my goals. I got extremely upset and considered deleting the file containing every bit of writing I’ve ever done. I almost reached the point, staring at that sad little form rejection letter, that I cried.
But I got over it.
Once I was able to think rationally again, I realized two things: First, I am good enough. I’ve been writing since I was able to hold a pencil. I used to win awards in school. I’ve got a contract on one of my stories.
I CAN DO THIS.
Second, I realized that the reason it was rejected is because the story isn’t finished. I started looking at it again last night after I cleared my head, and the more I read, the more I realized that there were multiple loose ends that need to tie up. Some of the story seems rushed, and parts of it were stilted.
Once I got over the anger and frustration, I was sort of relieved that it wasn’t contracted because I would have gone back through edits and very likely hacked it to bits. I’m not happy with the story as it is – don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and the characters. But I know when I look at it now that it still needs a lot of work and has a long way to go before I can actually publish it.
I think that this story is one of the reasons why I’m so stuck on everything else. It’s an incomplete project that I’m trying to rush, and I need to step back and take a long look at it before I try again. At least I learned something from this… being rejected isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I look at it more as a warning that something isn’t right. And if a publisher isn’t going to be happy with it, I certainly won’t.
4 thoughts on “Fear of Rejection”
Okay, the first thing you need is to get rejected LOTS more times. Because that’s going to happen. That’s as big a part of the writing process as learning to spell. It’s never fun; it’s always infuriating. But it does get easier, I promise. Believe me, every writer you love has been rejected a bazillion times, and they’ve been pissed off every single time.
You can’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with whether or not you’re good enough as a writer. A lot of times, it doesn’t even have anything to do with whether or not that particular piece of writing is good enough. Editors reject stuff for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. That thing where they say, ‘this just isn’t a good fit for us’? Yeah, sometimes that’s bullshit along the lines of the great break-up line, ‘it’s not you; it’s me.’ But a lot of the time, it’s absolutely true. Publications have their own personality, their own focus, and editors have to pick fiction that reflects that. Even if something is fabulous, if it doesn’t work with everything else, they can’t use it. That’s why you submit to publications you read and love rather than the one you think is most impressive or the one you think might be desperate enough to take you. If you feel like you’ve written a New Yorker story, send it to The New Yorker. All they can do is say no.
Editors also have crap days and stupid days just like anybody else – a story they would have loved last week they’ll hate this week, and vice versa. Plus the people who publish stuff are feeling a MAJOR money crunch at the moment – they’re not able to buy everything they love, and they’re having to buy what they think they can turn around and sell. And I suspect that means rejecting stuff they would like to buy and maybe even buying stuff they’d rather let go.
You may be absolutely right; your story may need another polish. But before you take this one editor’s opinion to heart, remember, an editor ain’t Jesus, and they can screw up. And just because this one did doesn’t mean the next one will. Or the next one. Or the next one. Or the next one.
You ARE a writer. You ARE good enough. You’re just still in the process of putting the perfect piece into the perfect market – and that takes a long time and lots of rejection.
*grin* I love you… you know that? Sometimes I need someone to smack me around and tell me what’s what…and since you’ve been through it, I’m glad to hear it from you.
I admit… I took it personally for about five minutes. And then I got over it. After all, it is natural that I would want to have the occasional tantrum. ESPECIALLY ON A MONDAY, because Mondays always suck.
Like I said, though, I see it as a good thing, because the more I read, the more I see that it really isn’t ready. And yes, this goes far beyond just being hard on myself for being rejected – I actually found several places that need major work. AGAIN.
The good thing is that I’m not afraid of rejection anymore. It hurts, but it’s not the end of the world. I think I just might live. 🙂
Everything Lucy said above and then some. You have a rejection letter. Do you know what this means???? You’re a real writer now.:) I’m so jealous.
You should tell your brother to watch out… I’m going to amass a huge collection and then make him compare all of his to mine. I bet I can do it better!!! 🙂