I wonder if I will ever be the kind of person who doesn’t spend a minute feeling the pain of rejection. I mean, did the big boy writers (Mailer, King, Bellow) ever fall in a heap about rejection? Or did they take to the punching bag, the whiskey, the waitress–their own version of pain management–and thrash it out?
All of us experience rejection. All of us. Blue to white collar. Laborer to manager. Kids to adults. Male to Female. Rejection is not race, class, sex or job sensitive. It is an equal opportunity employer.
The question is how do we deal with rejection when it seeks to employ (read: preoccupy us) us full time?
Personally, I pick up the phone. No, I don’t ask the recipients of those phone calls to whisper sweet nothings in my ear or plump up the stabbed pillows of my ego. What usually happens is we reweave the tear in the fabric of my otherwise pretty sweet life by connecting, telling each other stories, laughing, even shedding a few tears. These calls reestablish balance.
Let me explain that balance thing. It’s important.
For me, as a writer, I invest everything in my stories. Craft. Emotion. Time. Thought. Vision. I bring all of me to the table when I write. Even ego. In fact, I let ego come to the table because I want my stories to be the best. I am invested. When the manuscripts go out into the world, they are a part of me. I believe in them. I am cheering them on. (Let me just say, they do not go straight from my keyboard to the wide world. There’s a screen of critiquing partners who do not let these stories go willy nilly into the universe all puffed up full of ego and no substance.)
When a story gets rejected, it is as if a beloved is rejected. It rattles me. The rattling takes place down in cellar of my soul. (Cue sound effect: footsteps rising endlessly on hollow stairs, stomping out the words: YOU’RE. NO. GOOD. just as endlessly.)
I pick up the phone. I drown out the sounds coming from the cellar with the living and breathing voices of friends. We talk about our kids, our families, our misadventures in the grocery store. With them, I recalibrate. I put the rejection in perspective. It is just one tiny part of a really good life.
Then I remember why I feel the rattle of rejection: I feel it because writing, writing really good stories that mean something to whoever reads them, is very, very important to me. At the very bottom of it all, is the wish, the desire, the wanting to be the very best writer I can possibly be. Rejection rattles that wish but it doesn’t remove it. In fact, rejection reminds us of that wanting, that goal, that direction. Rejection, in a perverse way, reminds us of what we want.
Once I remember that, I go back to work.
As my friend, Kimberley (above) reminded me on the phone today: Success goes to the person who got up one last time.