I felt the sting of rejection last week. And the week before.
I didn’t like it.
One rejection hurt more than the other. I’d poured a lot of hope and heart into this particular story; I’d even used the photo that inspired it as my desktop image for months (visualising it happening, putting it out there…). Those who read it pre-submission (fellow authors) said things like:
“This is quality stuff – with all the elements of compelling, engaging short fiction. Your characters are so realistic, as is your dialogue; and I love the way you have been able to evoke time and place so effectively. There’s something quintessentially Australian about this story…”
“That is one very powerful story indeed. I didn’t – I couldn’t stop reading it. The language, the imagery – the Aussieness, it’s lovely and also incredibly real and sad.”
I was on tenterhooks for months … and then I heard that the long list was announced … and there was no email with my name on it. No snail mail (I went out of my way to my PO Box to check). I held on to hope for the whole day just in case cyber-post had been delayed, but finally, I had to accept it: I didn’t make the long list.
I had a little cry. A bit of a pity party. And then I straightened myself up and thought, ‘Jeez, those other stories must be bloody terrific!’
The next day, I started writing again.
The second rejection was for a literary magazine. The story in question had been highly commended in a competition … but it didn’t make the cut for this magazine. This time my reaction was a little different. A cross between “Meh!” and “Hmmph” sums it up.
Is it wrong for me to want my work to be recognised at that level? Hell no! I’m allowed to aim high. I don’t want my writing to be nice. I want it to be arresting. To compel. To evoke emotion. And yes, there are certain writers out there, ones I have met and admire, whose high opinions I would greatly value.
Once again, I shrugged off rejection and kept writing again. I’m not going to wallow. At least, not for more than a day.
I still don’t like rejection. I don’t think I ever will. I’ll always have a little cry. I’ll feel a bit fragile, disgruntled, deflated, doubtful, frustrated, sorry for myself, and jealous … and that’s okay, right?
Rejection happens. Even when you’ve got books published, won awards, and made a name for yourself (I’m still working on two of these). Expecting it not to happen is pointless.
No matter how beautiful your work is (or you think it is), the thorns or rejection will still get you at some point. And it never feels good.
Rejection does, however, have value, despite the pain. Most of our self growth comes through pain, so why should this be any different for our writer self?
It’s because of rejection that I’m learning about the publishing world, about the market as a whole and my own market. It’s because of rejection I’m asking hard questions like: Is it (was it) good enough? Can this story be improved? And are you going to let this knock you over?
Rejection means I have made an effort. I put myself out there. And I’m going to keep trying.