REJECTION SHOULD BE A FOUR-LETTER WORD

The word Rejection should be right up there with:

ACNE

LOSE

DUMB

…and all the other four-letter words that make us feel bad
about ourselves. REJECTION SUCKS. There’s no other way to say it. I am a
writer, trying to get two novels published. Combined, my rejection letters
total way over a hundred, and that’s not even counting the non-responders where
silence in and of itself equals rejection.

Do I take it personally? Of course I do. I interpret the
rejections as: Your writing sucks! Your concept sucks! And by the way, you suck too!

I was also a commercial and theater actress for many years –
another profession not unlike publishing that vomits rejection. “Not young
enough, pretty enough, skinny enough…just not enough…

It takes a thick skin to deal with constant rejection. I
should have given up long ago. Anyone with self-esteem issues knows that these
two professions, writing and acting, will tear you up inside if you don’t have
an ounce of self-confidence.

And yet I persist with the writing thing. Granted, I’ve
tried to consider many, many other professions in the hope that one will club
me over the head and drag me onto the Stability bus I’ve been chasing and missing
for so many years.

Dental Hygienist — Hey, they make decent money. I roll it
around in my head, and try not to gag on the idea of what it would be like to
probe plaque-and disease-ridden mouths…

Medical Assistant — Now there’s a profession that’s always
in demand. Maybe I can ignore the fact that I’m not very nurturing, nor can I
stand bodily fluids or the thought of wiping a stranger’s ass…

Any 9-5 office job — So what if my varicose veins get worse
and my weight triples from sitting at a desk all day? And really, who needs to
see the light of day anyway?

“Think of your son and what you need to do to support him. Forget what you want to do.” I hear that a lot.
If I thought I could excel at anything else, or retain my sanity doing something else, I would run to it. I
wish I was able to keep a “normal” job like 98% of the population. The journey I’m supposed to be enjoying has
left me stressed-out, broke, and queasy from motion sickness.

Numerous actors have said they fell into acting simply
because they couldn’t stand the idea of doing anything else. Or weren’t capable
of doing anything else, for that matter. They had literally sucked at every job
they attempted.

When actors accept their Academy Awards, singers accept
their Grammys, or best-selling authors who, after 1000 rejections FINALLY get
published, they all say the same thing: “NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM.” It’s
easy to spit out “never give up” in hindsight, while you’re holding that shiny
statue, or signing a 3-book deal.

But how long does one stick it out to pursue the dream? How long does one pick half-eaten hot dogs
out of the trash, sleep on a futon, drive a 1986 car?

How many writers out there have received one rejection too
many, and have chosen to bow out gracefully because they’re tired of seeing
those form-letter words?

“Your work is not the right fit for us at this time…”

“Your project isn’t quite right for me…”

“Please know that this business is highly subjective…”

And yet, all it takes is a single yes from one
person and the dream will have come true. That is what keeps us going.

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27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 3by3 writing method
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:38:27

    I had many many rejections, end result – gave up writing as an income source, but never stopped. The result was getting 6 books published (all technical) which gave me money for 6 self-published titles.
    Perhaps writing is not your income producing ride (i think maybe 2% of all writers, like actors make a living from their art)
    Move on in the income field, but keep writing, going to conferences and networking. It isn’t always about being accepted (check my blog out- you can kindle for free)

    Reply

  2. taureanw
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:24:03

    That just proves you are doing something you love!! Keep at it. Rejection always sucks but I know you are a much better writer now then you were when you got that first rejection letter 🙂

    Reply

  3. kimberleytroutte
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:58:08

    Ah, Tiffany, rejections do suck. And we writers have to learn to live with them. Seriously, there’s no other way if you want to follow your dream. Even the big, big, authors experience rejections in one form or another.

    Have you ever tried to give up writing?

    I can’t. I learned a long time ago that writing makes me happy, whole even (when I’m not wrestling my characters to the ground to force them to behave). I would write even if I never sold. I would write for me and my family and my friends. Realizing that about myself made the rejections a little easier to swallow. Besides, my ultimate goal is to make my stories the best they can possibly be. Every rejection is another step in the right direction.

    When all else fails…dark chocolate.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:11:30

      I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with writing. When my writing doesn’t go well, my mood turns foul, and conversely, I’m on top of the world when it does. I realize that the same would still happen even if I were published. In any case, dark chocolate and I are very well-aquainted. You could say we’re joined at the hips…and the butt…and the thighs…

      Reply

  4. Diane Carlisle
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 15:46:53

    Tiffany, don’t give up your dream! I work a day job as a software developer, far from anything related to writing as an art form. I just discovered after 13 years of programming, I want to write fiction! 🙂

    I think if you get a day job (anything really), it will take the pressure off. Just don’t ever give up what you love to do, even if you only write for yourself, just keep sending your manuscripts out. I read somewhere today that “The Help” received 60 rejections. 🙂

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:20:04

      Good for you! I know a lot of lawyers who have done the same thing — realized they wanted to pursue something artistic — be it art, writing or music. They didn’t go off and quit practicing law, but they left their comfort zone (extremely difficult to do imo) to take a risk and learn a new craft.

      Reply

  5. jeff7salter
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 18:21:20

    This is a very appropriate column (for me) for today — Yesterday I received my scores for three contest entries.
    After dropping the low score and averaging the higest three scores for each ms, (which is the way I understood the process), I recieved an A- for one contest entry, a B+ for another, and a C+ for the third entry.
    Obviously, I HATED the C+ scores!
    But despite those other two scores (which were tolerable), some of the comments really cut me deeply.
    I especially resent those judges who make assumptions about what the rest of the manuscript IS ! I mean they only read 5k words … which is between 5-7% of each ms. (depending on its total length)!. I can live with them evaluating such a limited sample, but what gives them the authority to GUESS at what will occur in the OTHER 90k words and then condemn what they assume it will be like?
    Good grief!
    So, yeah — rejection is the pits. I could use a little validation about now.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:32:54

      What you and I could both use, Jeff, is probably a few shots of tequila to numb the pain. I know how you feel right about now. I received critiques back yesterday from a contest and was pretty much trashed for something that I actually considered my strength. Which just goes to show that I completely suck at being objective over my own work. Yes, it’s all subjective. I know, I know, but it still makes me feel crappy. You have my permission to wallow (but just not for too long).

      Reply

  6. Meredith Conner
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 07:00:49

    First I firmly believe in the never give up philosophy. If you did your dream really would die plus what would you do with all those little voices in your head? Second, in terms of the contest remarks I view them in two different ways – reading is always subjective and some people are not going to like your style. It doesn’t mean it is not good. And two, you are always going to have critics so we might as well get used to them now. As you wrote, all it takes is one yes.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 09:57:18

      “Subjective” is a word I have come to know very well. This business is completely subjective. You’re right. Not everyone is going to like a particular writing style and I need to remember that!

      Reply

  7. Meredith Schorr
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 07:21:37

    Hey Tiffany,

    Yes rejection never gets easier! I published my first novel with a small e-publisher after getting rejected by about 50 agents. The “yes” from the publisher made up for all of the rejections from the agents but here I am with my second novel and wondering where to go from here. I’d be quite happy going back to the small press but I feel the need to at least try to get an agent again – just one round. I sent out 9 queries yesterday and already received 2 rejections. One was completely impersonsal and the other said my concept sounded interesting but wasn’t right for “her list” at this time. Even though I expect to get rejected by all 9, it still hurt. But it’s your passion and you have to keep on keeping on! Btw, I have a day job too which I enjoy but not nearly as much as I enjoy writing. But I do what I have to do. Knowing that I also have writing to keep me happy makes the dry day job so much more tolerable. And I’m sorry about your contest critiques. I got trashed in a contest too. Made me feel horrible until the same story got rave reviews in another contest. Even best selling novels get 1 star reviews and you can’t please everyone. Just trust your instincts.

    Good luck to you!
    Meredith

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:04:48

      I need to remember that I entered a few contests specifically for the critiques.I was a newbie though, and receiving those critiques is a bit different than receiving an impersonal form rejection from an agent in my inbox. In a couple days it won’t sting as much. My skin will be that much thicker despite all the moisturizer I slather on, and I will trudge on. Good luck with your queries!

      Reply

  8. kimberleytroutte
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:21:24

    Sorry for your results, Jeff and Tiffany!

    Contests are tough. I’ve both judged and been judged by them and see how hard it is on both sides. In one contest I got a 98 score and a 68. Really??? Near perfect and a, what, D? But, I like to genre-bend and some folks just don’t “get me”. I do listen to all the comments (if provided) and see for myself if the judge’s rationale has any basis at all. If all the judges harp on the same issue, there’s probably something to look at there. I go into contests hoping to win, of course, but also to get unbiased feedback. It’s not a perfect process, but I see it as another step in the grand journey.

    Hang in there, you guys!

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:50:52

      Yes, you’re right. It’s similiar to having one’s work critiqued in a writing group. One of the judges gave me a perfect score, which is the only reason I’m not passed out drunk, laying in an alley somewhere. (I’m kidding. Kinda.) But I do need to look closely at what the other judges said. It’s tough to be objective about one’s own work.

      Reply

    • Jeff Salter
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:59:29

      Good points, Kimberley. But one of the judges thrashed me over the name of one of my supporting characters. I thought that was a bit intrusive. LOL

      Reply

      • Kimberley Troutte
        Oct 25, 2011 @ 13:32:19

        Oh man, that seems harsh and over the top. You might want to complain to the coordinator of the contest. A judge cannot rule against you just because your character has the same name as the judges X.

      • Jeff Salter
        Oct 25, 2011 @ 15:34:23

        LOL, Kimberley.
        My supporting character is a policeman named Cpl. Thomas James. In the places I referred to him by his last name, ‘James’, this judge said (paraphrasing): “It sounds like a FIRST name and your heroine shouldn’t be so ‘familiar’ with this policeman that she uses his first name.”
        Well, DUH. She was NOT using his first name. In fact, when my heroine spoke to him, she called him ‘Officer’ or ‘Corporal James’. It was the NARRATOR who used the name ‘James’ and only when describing his movements.
        Good grief!
        But I won’t waste the angst to complain to the coordinator. I’ve had judges throttle me because my ms. header disappeared somewhere between the coordinator and the judge — and she/he couldn’t figure which page she/he was on.

  9. kimberleytroutte
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 11:05:20

    You need to decide if you agree with the judges, the critiquers, AND the inner demon. Every one has an opinion, right?

    I’ve found the best thing to do when you get mixed signals is to step back. Put that manuscript aside and write something else for awhile. Or do something fun and non-writing related. Or take a writing class or go to a conference. Something, anything, to charge up your batteries for the next step–looking at your manuscript again with clear non-chocolate-and/or tequila-hazed eyes.Give yourself time and if you still don’t agree with the comments then ignore them. Seriously. It is that easy.

    You are the boss. You are the supreme-decision-maker. You are in fact the creator. No one, not the agents, the editors, or even Amazon can survive without authors (okay maybe Amazon could).

    Dig deep, trust yourself, and keep writing.
    By the way, I give myself this same lecture on a weekly basis. You are not alone.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 13:56:35

      I have an extra bedroom. Can you move in with me? Each night before bed we can sit across from each other and repeat your words…”You are the boss. You are the supreme-decision-maker. You are in fact the creator…”

      Seriously

      Reply

      • Kimberley Troutte
        Oct 25, 2011 @ 15:04:10

        With the week I’ve been having, I’m THIS close to taking you up on your offer.
        We could always email each other.

  10. Angelin
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 12:01:07

    Rejection sucks. In whatever form, shape or size (and thats just the dating aspect of it)…but these days after I´ve wallowed, cried my angry tears and had my bout of screaming (wasn´t that some kind of therapy in the 80´s?) – I try to evaluate. Was the rejection to be expected (if even just in the back of my mind) because I compromised my style or approached the wrong reader or whatever? Was the rejection friendly or not, did I get any constructive critiscism? Is there anything to learn? And if not – just walk on with head held high.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 14:13:05

      I think there is always something to be learned, and goodness knows, one’s writing can always get better. My wise mother told me today, “You picked one of the most difficult and competitive professions to break into, give yourself a break.”

      “Yes, Mom.”

      Now, rejection regarding dating? Don’t even get me started!

      Reply

  11. Anne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 08:31:18

    Rejection should be a four letter word, but it sounds to me like you know what you want and are not gonna stray off the path! We all get rejected somehow in life over and over, and personally I am glad of it. It is how we learn our lessons 🙂

    Great post!!!

    Anne Kemp

    Reply

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