Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's not's me

Rejection. Every writer faces it. Repeatedly. Whether it's a bad review or a letter from an agent who tells you to never darken his or her doorstep again - it’s an unfortunate fact of the writing life. Most people react to rejection with a variety of emotions ranging from disbelief to anger to depression – frequently all at the same time!

I admire the people who can take rejection and immediately turn it to their advantage – the people who refuse to allow rejection to paralyze them. I am not one of those people. Like many writers, I take rejection very personally. I wish I could tell you that I’m spurred to action by rejection. Instead, it makes me doubt everything I’ve ever written. It makes me doubt that I can write at all.

Doubting our talent is one of the worst things we can do. Eventually, the doubt can immobilize us to the point where we no longer make any progress on our work. Sometimes the standstill is temporary. Sometimes it’s permanent, and we allow ourselves to give up on our dreams. So how do we move beyond the standstill?

First, we need to remind ourselves (constantly, if necessary) that the rejection does not mean that we’re bad writers. It may mean that something in our manuscript needs work, and if we’re lucky we’ll get feedback from the editor, agent or reviewer that will help us improve. No matter how good we are, we can always get better.

It may also mean that our story isn’t a good fit for the house or agent we’re targeting. It’s the old “It’s not you, it’s me,” gentle let down used by former lovers everywhere. Now, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this particular line, you know it’s not at all comforting. It’s equally demoralizing coming from a publishing professional, but publishing is a subjective business. We need to remember that what one editor or agent may dislike, another may love. It’s imperative that we keep trying to find the best fit for our work.

No matter how personal it feels, rejection isn’t personal. As writers we create a product. Even though that product is borne of our hearts, it is still a product that we’re trying to market. In order to market it effectively, we have to remember that sometimes it really isn’t us. . . it’s them.

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