We all have something (or someone) that we greatly admire as writers.
That dream publication that we want to see our writing in because we are enamored with every piece we read in there.
Or that writer who seems like they take the words out of our mouths and spins the reality of life into perfection.
We all have those things/people that we place on a pedestal.
As a writer, I know what most of my aimed achievements are: I want to work for this literary magazine, I want to be published on this site, I want my manuscripts to be picked up by this certain press. Through the power of positive thinking, I imagine and almost feel like that I am doing these things already.
So when these places or people reject me, the sting is greater.
The more you want something, the higher you elevate it to a level so great that everyone is afraid of the fall. Pedestals are pretty, but you will scrape your knees.
I have been trying to get my chapbook manuscripts in presses that I admire and adore. A place I would be proud to call home for my books.
I would be hopeful and confident about my submissions in the beginning. As time would pass, my confidence would shrink a little, but I would still be good. Until I received that e-mail. That hardly personal e-mail that thanks me for my submission, but they have chosen another manuscript. The worst ones are the e-mails announcing the winning chapbooks and finalists, but barely acknowledge the fact that you submitted at all. Guess the losers are supposed to just take the hint.
And that sting? Those scraped knees?
Bloodshot red like your eyes after crying for hours.
What shocks me the most is the bitterness that stays.
I guess since it's easier to hate (sometimes) than it is to continue to love, I tend to shy away from places/people that have rejected me for while. While I lick my wounds.
In my head, which is always a better practice than actually doing it in a public forum, I will bad mouth these publications or people. Most of the time, I don't know why my manuscript wasn't strong enough, why my résumé was disregarded. Editors hardly have the time to say why. This is one thing that I wish was different. If they were required to give feedback, then I would know what's wrong (sooner) and be able to fix it, instead of wasting time on anger and the bitterness of rejection.
If you tell me what I'm doing wrong, I will take it into consideration so I can build a stronger piece! Editors, I wish you had that mercy on us poor writers sometimes. No one likes being rejected. I know this is going to happen from time to time, but still. How am I suppose to improve?
Here's a little secret:
Writers take courses, workshops, go to conferences and writing groups. All of
this is beneficial to our writing. But what should be incorporated more is feedback from editors.
Editors are the ones that we are trying to build relationships with. Editors are the key to getting publish. We study their publications and try to figure out if they would like us. We take chances and then feel confused when we deliver a piece that seems perfect for their taste, but then fails to deliver.
I personally feel betrayed in a weird way. I feel like I invested so much time in a particular scenario for it to end up in failure. I don't want to be angry at myself so I take it out on a publication and editor who won't let me in on the secret.
My most reoccurring fault that I throw out there is that maybe they are pretentious. Maybe if it doesn't reek of the shadows of Whitman, Eliot, or Plath, that it's not poetry.
Or I might say, "Oh they want the stereotype poet, you know the ones that speak in exclusively in metaphors and talks about the struggle and the beauty."
Occasionally, my thoughts even get a little racist, sexist, almost -ist there is. I think of every possible reason I could think of. This is all within a course of a hour after reading a rejection e-mail or at some point during the day.
It's a vicious cycle. Because eventually you start to blame yourself. You think that your writing stinks and that you should quit while you're ahead, while you still have half a heart.
This doesn't work either. Any writer with an ounce of passion will not stop writing. However, we will always be left with questions inside of our head. Getting feedback from other writers or workshops helps, but we will never get inside that editor's head.
Recently, I have decided to go the self publishing route for my manuscripts (more on that this week), but I am taking my time because they are still under consideration at a couple of presses and contests. Yesterday morning, I got another rejection. Even though I have decided to take fate into my own hands, it still hurts when you get that "Sorry, but..." e-mail.
How does one get over this kind of rejection? How do you recover from the fall?
Well, these are just my methods. If it can help someone else, then some of this is worth it:
- Breathe - Don't forget to breathe. It hurts. I know it does. But take a deep breath and remember, it's not the end of the world (yes, cliche, but true).
- Allow yourself to feel it - it's okay to feel sad, angry, or hurt. Rejection isn't a good thing. Don't wallow in it though. Just take a little time and in your head, feel it and be angry, shout. Say how dare they! No one expects you to take rejection without feeling something.
- Do not vent in a public forum - it makes you seem like a sore loser. And if you are networking correctly, you may be connected to presses and zines via your social networks already who might see this and may not want to work with you. We all understand the struggle, but calling out individuals is not nice. They have their reasons and maybe in the future, another piece could be published by them.
- Talk to someone - someone who really understands your writing or at least your passion for it. Getting feedback on a situation always helps. Sometimes, these ears will also be mouthpieces as to why you are great. Let them tell you and reinforce it. Your writing soul has a boo boo and it needs soothing.
- Go ahead, get some ice cream - it's okay to do something for comfort. As long as you are not putting yourself at risk or in debt, it's okay to get that ice cream cone.
- Get back to work - Go and edit that piece or start a new project. Do not wallow in the sadness of rejection. Let's get corny and say that you need to get back on the horse and try, try again! Use this as a motivation to become a stronger writer.
These little things help me and other writers I know, but it's different for everyone. You have to find the positive methods that work for you.
It hurts to fall off the the pedestal. Rejection is not pretty, but it is necessary. If we never got rejected, we would never find the right fit that could be waiting for us with the next submission or job some place else. Feel your rejection, comfort yourself, then move on. That's all any writer can do.
Oddly, writing about this has made my rejection sting a little less (See? Getting back to work helps!). We need to talk about these things so that the next generation of writers know that they are not alone on their journey.
That's probably one of my biggest problems with being a writer. As I try to learn and grow, I find myself having to search long and hard for peers and mentors that I can connect with so that I know my experiences are normal and common. Writers can be such solitary creatures sometimes! But that can be for another post for another day.
Until next time my Writer Queeners, take care and keep grinding!