on rejection

I’ve chosen not to put this post into the “unqualified writing advice” category. It’s not really advice. I’m not sure that anyone can put together a universal collection of thoughts regarding literary rejection. It’s just too hard of a pill to swallow.

If you haven’t figured it out, I recently received the 5th rejection on a piece that I really enjoy. And it never gets easier.

Considering this rejection came my way this morning, I wanted to throw down a few thoughts on the process and provide a window into how I handle these types of things. Often writers will talk about receiving tons of rejections, but it’s rare that they go into the gory details about how much it really stings. I want to be open about it. Because it fucking stings…

Every time I get a rejection, I start to think about quitting. It’s the easier option. I could just play video games, actually catch up on the TV shows that I’ve missed, and dedicate time in other places of my life. The rejection opens that door and I start thinking about how stupid I am for trying.

Of course no one wants to publish my shit. It sucks. Why do I waste my time on it? Who am I kidding? I’m not good enough to be published. I’m lying to myself.

^Literally the spiraling thoughts that I had this morning walking to the T station.

And I guess there’s validity in it. What if I’m not any good? Maybe I’m not. That could be true and I’ve just been lying to myself in order to facilitate some pipe dream that I am not mature enough to let die. God damn it is hard to turn away from that reasoning. And I guess that I could give it all up.

But of course, there is the other side of the coin.

Readers, I really like writing. I really do. And to give it up in pursuit of some type of rejectionless utopia sounds like pure hell. Trust me, I feel stupid writing this down. It feels dumb or pompous or disingenuous, but it is true. I like seeing stories happen and I feel good when I write something. Even on the nights where I am just getting by and logging off after 250 words, I feel better because I did it.

So, what do you do? Do you drop it and stop torturing yourself? Do you continue on knowing that the chances of publication are never going to be in your favor unless you become (somehow) slightly known?

I face this question with every rejection that I get and the decision process never gets any easier.

The truth is that I’ve dropped writing before. I decided that it wasn’t worth the time. It was a waste and I felt like I didn’t have ideas or chops or the mental fortitude that it takes to put the work into it. And I ended up in various stages of depression and anxiety. Was it tied directly to not writing? I don’t know. At least in part. I would say that much.

Writing makes me happy. I’m a cynic, a curmudgeon, and a generally depressive-disposed individual. So, I guess I need the things that make me happy.

But I also really like the process. The writing is great, editing is hard but rewarding. Even searching for publishers and putting together the manuscripts carries a feeling of accomplishment. I like the process, even if the process comes back to bite me in the ass more often than not.

I guess I’ll keep writing. Maybe that decision works against my own best interest. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. But I know that I don’t want to turn my back on something that I care about. That would be something that would really get me down.

With all that said, I’m going to be sad today and I’m going to allow this rejection to get to me. I’m very used to suppressing my emotion and bottling it up. I try to compartmentalize and to avoid dealing with things. It’s just who I am. But I’ve been trying to allow myself to feel negative emotion more often. It’s important.

So, this rejection will get to me today. I can be mad, sad, angry, disappointment, and fed up today. But that needs to go away by tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will take some time to look for more publishers and I will send out more manuscripts and I will put in the work. And maybe I’ll only get more rejections. But maybe I’ll get an acceptance.


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