Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Art of Handling Rejection

Behind every art is a craft. Period. At least in my view. But for the life of me, I can’t see it where handling rejections are concerned. People talk like there’s a craft to it. “Paper your walls with the rejection letters.” “See them as badges of honor.” “Picture the senders naked.”

Okay, okay, the last technique is for someone delivering a speech to plow through the nerves. It works, as long as you don’t laugh.

But as for the other two, I only have a 990 square foot apartment. I quit counting rejections at three hundred several years ago. Badges of honor? I must be one of the more decorated writers over the last sixteen years, assuming you have to take all of them down after you receive an acceptance.

Are there really ways to handle rejections? Or can we only cope with them?

The truth is, even after all the years of acting and writing, I don’t know how to handle all of the rejections. Particularly with no successes to show for it. I am human. I feel. And every time I send out a round of submissions, I brace myself for the backwash. I cast my fishing net into the ocean, only to be trounced by the returning wave.

And it hurts to be told that your creation is not wanted. That the world can live without the song you’re singing from your soul. That, when you die, nothing you’ve done will have mattered.

I cope. I know how to swim when the wave hits, but that’s all folks. But the ability to keep from drowning isn’t a way to handle the situation. It’s a way to keep from paying the ultimate price. Handling it means, to me, that we somehow gain control. Coping means we fend off the consequences without disaster. And, ultimately, maybe that does mean handling it.

Sometimes I still don’t know which is worse, the kind of rejection I referenced last week that says, “It’s almost there, but not quite enough,” or the kind I got twenty-five years ago that was essentially my query letter with a circle around my name and a line drawn by the editor to his written words, “not a chance.”

I have enough distance from that one to laugh, and regret having thrown it away in a fit of pique.

During what my late grandmother (Mama Drue) called, “them there olden days,” an agent or editor would take a writer under his or her wing, helping them hone their craft until the result transcended the dialogue and conflict and structure into spun gold we sometimes call art.

No more.

We live in a time where agents and editors no longer have time to do that, with rare exception. They require a manuscript that is all but ready to be published. It the NOW factor. It must be salable NOW. It must be publishable/marketable NOW. And that’s a crying shame, but it’s become the reality of the business.

I would do exactly the same thing in their shoes.

I’m bringing all of this up because I received a couple of rejections this week, one from Glimmer Train. I found out by logging into the site, checking the “My Submissions” page and seeing the word “Completed” next to my entry. In Glimmer parlance it means, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

That’s the bad news.

The good news, of course, is that I am submitting.

More bad news is that submissions summon rejections by a factor of almost one to one.

The good news is that I have learned how to swim even if I haven’t learned to dodge the breaking waves.

Back to the term “almost one to one.”

I haven’t seen it yet, but some day, starting with a single submission, the wave won’t break. The sunshine of publication will replace it, and my eyes will create whatever water is there.

Until then, I have to brace myself after each submission batch and struggle through the churning water.

There is no art or craft for handling rejection to my mind. The only way to truly avoid the disappointment is to not walk down that road or cut oneself off from all feeling. Neither produces good and published writers that I’ve seen. Neither is the way to live life.

This last week, I began the new outline for Catch a Falling Star up to and including working out scene/sequel for the prologue/chapter one/chapter two. My goal of completing draft lucky 13 is more than doable. And I will proceed along those lines during the holiday weekend and through the week. I am also going to play around some more with my MacBook Pro, transferring some old files and drafts.

And, later today, I will go see The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. I’m a sucker for stories of misfits finding their world, and for those who don’t see the story that way, I understand. I just ask you to understand that this is what I take from The Twilight Saga.

Have a Happy Fourth of July, everyone. I’ll let you know next week how I did.

1 comment:

  1. Keep reminding yourself that it only takes ONE yes in a sea of nos. Your YES is coming, my friend. xo