I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection lately. As I prepare two critical essay submissions and my independent blog application for the Sigma Tau Delta convention judges and a short story proposal to be considered for presentation at the 2011 John Fowles Literary Forum, how could I not? Sending out these pieces, these fragments of my soul, is a bit like being all dressed up and standing in the dark at a junior high dance, willing the boys on the other side of the gym telepathically: Pick me…please pick me.
Last month on The Missouri Review website, Michael Kardos blogged about the unavoidable and unremitting experience of rejection in the life of a writer (www.missourireview.com/tmr-blog/2010/10/22). If we’re going to send work out, we’re going to receive rejection notices. If we’re lucky, the agent or editor handwrites an encouraging comment; however, I understand this, too, is quite rare and reason enough for champagne.
To sweeten the bitter pill of rejection, Kardos suggested the concept of a Rejection Jar – a cheerfully decorated mason jar into which a writer stuffs a dollar bill each time his or her work is rejected. At least then, after, say, a hundred rejections, the fortitudinous writer will have saved enough for theatre tickets or a consolatory pair of shoes or spa treatment.
Jar or no jar, it’s clear that getting comfortable with rejection is crucial if we harbor any hope of getting published, winning an award, or being invited to read our work for an esteemed audience. As the saying goes, without risk, there is no reward. Rather than permit rejection to derail us, we can use it to strengthen our resolve to try again – and then again. The rejection slip is one assessment of our work and talent, but it’s not the final assessment unless we allow it to be.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it. ~ W. C. Fields