Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Truth About Rejection

Early on in our careers, writers learn that rejection is part of the publishing game, and many come to believe (as I did) that we should simply suck it up and soldier on.  That allowing rejection to get to us is a sign of weakness and that we'll be viewed negatively by our peers.

I can't deny that rejection is a huge part of publishing.  Rejection by agents, rejection by editors, rejections by reviewers, rejection by readers.  For a writer, even a successful one, rejection never truly goes away.  And I also won't deny that, if a writer is to survive the publishing business, he needs to develop, if not a thick skin, then a way to cope with the rejection.

To those on the outside, we must look like a bunch of whiners.  Cry babies.  But I tried to explain this to Matt the other day.  Imagine you worked at a store that sold hammers.  Now imagine that you made every one of those hammers.  Now imagine that each of the hammers you made represents some thing in your life that you hold very dear.  Now imagine that your confidence and sense of self-worth is tied to every hammer sale that you make.  If a customer hates your hammers, they might as well be hating you.  If a reseller passes on your hammers, you can't help taking it personally.  And there are days when you dream of beating your head in with your own hammer.

I know that it's true that when agents and editors and readers don't connect to a story, it's more about them, their personal tastes and feelings at that moment; but, like dating, the "it's not you, it's me" line doesn't make that rejection sting any less.  

Because that's the truth about rejection.  It doesn't matter how thick your skin is or how long you've been in the business or how many times your logical brain tells you that it's not personal, that taste is subjective, rejection sucks.  When an agent passes on your full, when an editor doesn't connect to your characters, when a reader doesn't even finish the book, it hurts.  And it hurts bad.

Which is why we drink.  Heavily.  It's also why I'm so thankful for the Internet.  For the community of writers who understand.  For my amazing agent, for the editors I've worked with and the editors I hope to work with in the future.  For the readers who do connect and remind me why I love writing despite the rejection.  I don't know how writers survived before the Internet, but I'm damn glad I don't have to.

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