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Prozac for the Rejection Blues

Author: Shawn Rost-Howen
Date:   01-30-02

Dealing with rejection - by a writer who's been there.

Have you ever thought about the fact that we are born with rejection? The womb has rejected us and pushed us out into the cold, often cruel world. I think it goes from there. We are rejected when we bite, pull hair, want what's on the coffee table - the list goes on and on.

So, you would think that we would be used to it. Beep. Gong. Wrong answer. Unless you are into pain, you never get used to rejection. The rejection I am referring to is not when your best girl or boy says no to a date. It is not the rejection from the bank when they refuse to loan you the money for a brand new car. I am speaking of the ultimate rejection. A rejection so personal that you may hide and never come out again.

Okay, okay, enough already. Deep breaths.

Anyone who writes, and does it seriously with the hope of getting published, has received, or is facing, rejection. It comes in a simple recognizable form. A large envelope in your mailbox bearing your name, in your handwriting. That alone can make it worse. Take my advice on this one, print the labels. It makes it a bit less stinging.

I happen to think all writers must be masochists. We write and send it out. We wait. We look in the mail box every day. What are we waiting for? If you are like me, you are waiting for the brown envelope to come back. Are we nuts? If you see that fat brown envelope, then we know what it holds. Rejection in one form or another. So why did we open it?

If you are like me, it's because you forgot to put the address of the place you sent the piece to in the return area, and you have no idea who is rejecting you, so you have to open it to find out.

Rejections can make you cry. Rejections can make you mad. Rejections can make you stomp your feet and scream. Hey, we're back to that child thing again. Guess we don't really grow up, do we? Which might explain why we never get used to rejection.

So, we never get used to it. I don't think anyone does. Some of us learn to accept it and others simply give up and say, I am just not good enough. So what do those who keep going have that those who don't are missing?

One thing I do is to get more submissions ready than I am going to send out on a given day. Say I mail out ten proposals; I make sure I have fifteen ready to go. Why? Well, when I see that fat brown envelope I go home and set it aside. Before I open the thing I mail out one of the others. You see, even if I get discouraged by the rejection I know is there, I am still going.

Next, I read carefully what they have written in their rejection. Does it sound like they have not even read my work? I'm sorry but we only accept the below genres. Please review our list carefully. Hey, they accept SciFi and this is SciFi. Ahhhh! They did not even read it. Whew! That means they are just to busy or don't want work from an unknown. Crisis over.

What about the ones that say, I'm sorry but this doesn't fill our needs at this time. Or, This just didn't ring any bells for me. These are a bit tougher. You could read them to be personal. Okay, maybe they are. But do you know the person? Do they know you? Have you met them, and seen them in their underwear, or they you (now that's personal)? No? Well, then. They have not rejected you. They most likely have not read the work, either. How to deal with this one? Tape the slip to your dart board and throw darts at it. The sharp pointy kind. Rip the slip up into the smallest strips that you can.

Seriously though, forget it. Send out another proposal. Ha, they are missing out on some great work.

Now I come to the more personal ones. They are hand written and contain clues that they have read your work. The main character doesn't have enough depth. Jane reads like a stereotype I wish we could forget. Ughhhhh! I've crawled under my desk now and I am refusing to come out, even for a cookie. How could I write such garbage? I'm a horrible person. My writing sucks. I might as well be dead. I'll never write again…

Okay. Does everyone like your favorite jeans? Mine have holes in all the wrong places. I also rarely wear a bra - a fact not lost on some people (in the negative fashion). I drive too fast. I eat too much. I see nothing wrong with sex-ed for our youth. I have reddish hair (some people hate the color). I don't go out much to party (many people I know think I should). I write mostly fiction and people think I should write non-fiction. I have a mean temper. People don't like that much.

I take none of these personally. I keep right on the way I always have and stick my nose in the air at those who dislike me for what I am. So, file the letter in the appropriate file (hint: it's normally round) and go on. Not everyone will like your work. Send it to the next person. Forget it and start your next project.

I also go for long walks. I associate with other writers who have the same thing happening to them. And I continue to write. Even if all I ever do is write for me; I write. I am a writer and writers write, no matter what others think. Need a boost? Show your work to your significant other. They will tell you how great you are. Even if you know they are not being honest, it works.

It's like learning anything. You will fail. Repeatedly. But the saying 'practice makes perfect' applies well here. Do it again. Each time you will see something new in your writing and eventually so will the editors and the agents you are submitting to. Writing involves a great deal of commitment. It involves finding your voice that stands out among many others.

A writer writes, and the best way to beat rejection is to beat the cause. Write, and write some more. Your writing can only get better and then, who knows what will happen. In the mean time, lean on a shoulder or two and don't give up. Just like a soul mate, the right editor or agent is out there. You just have to find them, and if you give up, you never will.

Shawn Rost-Howen has written a series of articles aimed at beginning writers and old hats as well. They were previously published by Wild Child Magazine.

Copyright 2002 Shawn Rost-Howen. All rights reserved.