Okay, I hesitated even writing this, even just writing it to myself, let alone sharing this with the world. But you know what? I write to vent and be heard. So, here it goes...
I F@#$%#@ hate REJECTION. Seriously, I try to be all zen about it. I try NOT to be angry.
It sucks. This contest, (I entered the Amazon Breakout Novel contest and got through the first round but didn’t make the second and just found this out five minutes ago) just like the Delacorte one I entered so many years ago, is such a friggin’ tease for me. I always seem to come into things second or third best. Or, I get a tease that it might happen. With the Delacorte one, I got a handwritten note from a certain editor named Jennifer who said the story didn’t win but I love your voice and I want to see more. Then I showed her more...and didn’t hear back for a year! Just to hear “Oh, thanks but no thanks." There’s been countless correspondences with agents and editors like that, and I don’t want to relive those torturous times. The deal is, this rejection for Fear of Falling– with this recent contest– particularly sucks because I didn’t get excited about it at first. really wasn’t going to tell anyone, but then I did, and now it’s kind of like telling people you are pregnant too early and then finding out you never were and now you have to go back and tell everyone.
I got rejected. Yep, I’m a LOSER. By definition.
I am sitting with the feelings of it and letting myself just feel it and not struggling with it or telling myself a bunch of bullshit. When I do that, I form a weird, secondary pain, one that comes from the struggle of pushing back what I really feel. We all do that, right? Something happens–a rejection or betrayal– and, at first, you are like, “Oh, hey, I’m cool. Whatever. I don’t need that shit. I’m so much better than that. WHATEVER!” Then, the pain hits. “Oh, man, this sucks. Man, this just sucks.” Then you fight it again, but this time it’s really hard and almost feels worse than the actual rejection itself. “Oh, God, I suck. I’m such a loser.” Then I fight that with: “No– I’m not! Whatever. Just don’t think about it. Let go. Who cares. It means nothing....” But, the truth always comes through. The truth of my feelings, that is. And that truth is...it does hurt and fighting with the hurt, hurts even worse.
Here I am. Feeling the pain of yet another rejection from yet another publisher. Even though this is a contest, it is one with a prize of publication and book contract. In other words, winning this, for me, would be like winning the lottery. No, better. It would be better to get a book contract than win the lottery. Because a book contract is earned. It means validation. It means I have made it. I have mixed feelings about saying that. I guess I really don’t like to admit that I want the validation of the publishing industry because that will imply that their criteria is valid when, in fact, we know that’s not always the case (just look at some of the shit they publish!).
But getting the book deal, in a weird way I don’t want to psychoanalyze, feels like winning prom queen. Me. The anti-prom queen girl. If I win prom queen, it means all the bullshit rules of the beautiful, perfect people getting everything they want–those rules are all turned upside down. If I’m the prom queen–the girl who you thought would never, could never be the prom queen–if I win, then maybe we all have a fair chance. This part of me that feels that way is the same part that is still fifteen years old. The same part that can’t stop writing young adult fiction. The part of me that gets rejected from the publishing industry.
This rejection from yet another publisher, brings up all kinds of other moments in my life of rejection. Of course, these moments are all before the age of eighteen because that’s the part of me that is the writer. Here’s what I immediately thought of when I read the list of who made it to the second round. I thought of how NO ONE asked me to either my junior or senior prom, and I remember standing at both proms looking around and realizing not one person in my class of roughly 120 kids wanted to go with me to prom–okay, split that in half. Not one out of 60 people in my class, people who I have known since third grade, not one thought going with me to prom would even be tolerable, even just as friends. I sucked THAT much. I remember thinking that and wanting to kind of curl up and just sleep for the remaining years of high school. Now, I think back and I can be all adult about it and say, “Well, whatever. It really doesn’t mean much to not be asked to prom. I mean, who cares? What does it mean in the scheme of things, right?”
The problem is that it may not mean much in terms of will I get up and move on in my life, but it means something to me inside each time I am rejected. Rejection SUCKS. And no matter what it’s for, it all feels the same. Dank, dark, yicky, sad, shitty frustrating, and unfair. It leaves such a heaviness in my body, such a feeling of not really being in this moment but being deeply inside my mind, where all the pain sits.
I sit and type this at Starbucks, feeling like I really am a loser. I mean I have been writing and trying to break into the mainstream world of publishing for so many years, and I keep getting the proverbial kick in the face, and, yet, even with this rejection, I am not giving up. Now does that make me? Crazy? Tenacious? Admirable? Stubborn? Stupid?
Of course, when rejection happens, I look at the work itself that is getting rejected, and I say, “Well, you know. I am just not good enough.” Now that reality used to hurt me really deep. When I would come to the realization that the rejection slip meant I wasn’t good enough, I would just really struggle with that and think, “No. No. I am good enough. He/she/they are just stupid and don’t know a good thing when they see it.” But now, wiser and older, I realize that, the thing is, I am not good enough. Period. End of sentence. All of these publishers and agents can’t all be stupid and not know what they are talking about. I am not good enough to get a real, genuine, book deal.
As I say that to you, I know some of you might get nervous for me. Listen, don’t worry about me. I can sit with this reality and not die. I can sit with this reality and still get up and write.
Shit, I am writing right now.
***It's several hours later and I have had time to come out of the dankness of the initial feelings of being rejected. It isn't true that I am not good enough for a book deal. What is true is that for this particular publisher and this particular contest, my work wasn't right. In fact, that's what being rejected really is about. We just aren't a match. What can you do?
Fortunately,I was a sales consultant and sales manager for years BEFORE beginning my writing career. This was suppose to mean that I was immune to rejection, and I guess, for the most part, I am.
Still, I feel inside, that I have things to say, and at least want them out there in case someone perchance would read them, enjoy them or learn from them.
I am also reminded when I get a rejection of our buddy Stallone and the "Rocky" story, and once again I am uplifted.
People like us need the smallest of lights from the end of the tunnel to feel revivified and march on. Thanks for sharing. Joe Caulfield
After I reread this I realize...In the moment of the rejection I feel like I am not good enough for whomever rejected me. But, in truth, I am not sure if you can ever really say that is true. Rejection really is about not being a match. Not being "right" for someone versus not being good enough.
No, Hannah. I wouldn't say you aren't "good enough." You could maybe -- MAYBE -- say you aren't good enough YET. Or, that you just haven't found the right story. Or that you just haven't found the right editor.
For so many years, editors and agents have served as the gatekeepers that determine what the rest of us get to read. On balance, that's probably been a good thing. But like you say, sometimes they fail. Crap gets published and great stuff gets rejected (Harry Potter 17 times!). So they are not infallible.
Maybe it's time for us to just take our work to the market and let the market decide. Like a garage band. Play some gigs for free and see if you can get a following.
I'm going to try it, because I'm tired of waiting.
Let's talk sometime.
Why? Simple question, really... Why do you write? Based on this post, you are writing for fame, fortune, or possibly you might think you will gain some self worth. If that's the case, sorry to say, but you are correct. You are a horrible, miserable failure. Of course, judging yourself using another person's yard stick will always lead to failure.
Statistically speaking, you will likely never get published. If you really want to get published, write a niche genre story like military history. At least the odds are better, although still pretty poor. Of course, if you actually get published, it's almost certain that no one will ever read your stories.
Discouraged? How about we use some other metrics. Your the mother of 2 super cute kids. You have your own business. I believe I recall that you are getting your MFA. You've got 3 self-published stories with another x number of stories to go. And, from what I can see in previous posts and FB status updates, you write to tell a story that only you can tell.
Oh, and for the record, you went to my senior prom with a date. And there was at least one person who had a crush on you who, when I told him, was disappointed to know that you were going to the prom with someone else.
Not sure I have a right to comment since my stuff never even gets in the honorable mention category, but here I go anyway. I get that being selected is mostly about being a match, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. Who wouldn't go off the deep end once in a while after repeatedly being judged not a match by editors who seem rather short-sighted and lacking in creativity. By only adhering to an all-or-nothing-match policy, I believe editors might often reject the better written piece in favor of the one that most matches. That's pretty sad. I, for one, rankle at the thought that these are the people who get to dictate what I read. Since their play-it-safe policy still gets a lot of crap published, they couldn't do any worse by growing some balls and getting creative. The bastards!
What I love about each of your comments is that you never once tell me to not feel what I feel. That you all offer another perspective on the idea of rejection and failure. Oh, and Bill, you're right. I did go to your prom...Actually, I think I in a way technically went with you and someone else, right? We all drove there together! It's funny how we have selective memory about our past...to fit whatever place we are in the present!
I started writing about four years ago with NO experience what so ever. I never in a million years thought I would take my books as far as publishing. Once I had my first manuscript all typed up and got into playing on Photoshop with cover ideas, I looked into what it would take to publish it. I queried unsuccessfully but wasn’t worried simply because I didn’t know better. So I self-published, again because I didn’t know better. I got so much outstanding feedback from my extremely poorly edited first version (there have been many) that I figured the content was okay. Every time I’d revise (based on reader feedback), I try querying again. I have gotten several requests for my “full”, but nothing that has ever amounted to anything (most never get past the first chapter for some reason). Somewhere along the line I sold to a few RI libraries. Meanwhile, once my querying results started picking up again I was told by three different agents (in the same week, no less) that self-publishing the series first had pretty much killed ALL chances of ever being picked up by a traditional publisher. The feeling that I got when I had heard this was like I had just sent my small children out to play on I-95. But I didn’t give up. I figured “okay, just another mountain to move”. A few months later I gave in and revised for a final (for the time being) time and replaced all the library purchased books with new ones that give an explanation as to what I’m trying to do. I then started advertising via a facebook page for it. This was only a few months ago. Being patient is certainly not my strong suit, but I’m getting more positive results this way than I ever did sitting on it while I queried. The Jessup County Secret found its way into juvenile detention and spread like wild fire in there (the boys to my utterly complete surprise), and two of the libraries have book clubs that are looking to use the series (without any persuasion or marketing on my part). It is still not edited properly, I must also say. I could say I feel your pain, but I don’t think it’s quite the same. I’m a newbie. I deserve the wait, as well as all the frustration, aggravation, pain and every other negative feeling that comes with this business. Considering the content of my debut book, I put myself out there like I was naked on national television. I have to remind myself that whether it ever gets published or not, it’s made it WAY farther than I ever intended. It just sucks that now I want writing to be my career and I need a publisher’s permission to do that. With two small children, a real estate and photography business, there has never been much time for any hobbies. I just have to wait for someone else to determine my future. Like I said, I’m not good at waiting. Reading your blog entries helps me to feel as though I’m not alone. Thanks. Keep going. We’ll both get there. Just not in OUR designated time frame.
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