States of Rejection

As promised last week, I’ve decided to write a piece today about the difference between personal vs. impersonal rejections. This post will probably be shorter than the last because this topic is one that can run away from me if I let it, so I’m going to try to keep it reigned in.

When you send a work out to be considered for public consumption, no matter the medium and no matter the channel you use, you are basically putting a piece of yourself out there for the world to pass judgement on. This, of course, isn’t news to any of you who have done it before, because you’ve definitely felt that pressure. The next part, the wait, can be the hardest for some people. You’ll try to take your mind off of the fact that there is a piece of your work floating around out there waiting for someone to deem it worthy to be seen in their particular publication or venue, but it will be next to impossible. For the weeks (or, most likely, months) you will have to seriously focus yourself on not dwelling on the possibilities at hand.

Once that letter (or email, as is often the case these days) comes in you’re likely going to find your heart in your chest and your bladder ready to burst until you build up the courage to open it. What you find inside, as I mentioned last week, can be something that will change your life in one way or another if you let it. Best case scenario, of course, is that you’re accepted, possibly even with some positive commentary which will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But then there’s that other case…

Should you receive a rejection, there are a couple of types you may get. The less common type of rejection will come with a nice (hopefully) helpful note attached that may give you some tips on how to improve either that work specifically or your style in general. These types of rejections can make you feel as if you’ve actually just spoken to a friend about a piece and they’ve managed to give you some healthy feedback that will hopefully leave you none the worse. Granted, there are the occasional unprofessional and unkind personal rejections that may contain negative feedback or even a hurtful comment.

If one of these harmful rejections shows up in your hand, you may be tempted to take everything they say to heart- some may even be tempted to take that as fate and stop writing altogether- but the latter is NOT the way to react. Should you receive a negative personal rejection the best thing to do is tear the words apart in your head. Find a positive in it somewhere. If the editor tells you that you need to work on getting your dialogue to sound like people talking and not cavemen muttering, then your goal is to work on dialogue. If they tell you that your character development is about as flat a Patriots football (I couldn’t help it), then you know that you need to work on character development. The bottom line there is that no matter what the negative rejection says, you have to try to find some way to put a positive spin on it and turn it into constructive criticism.

Now, the most common type of rejection in the current market is going to likely be the hardest to handle. It is the impersonal, standard, run-of-the-mill piece of mail that tells you that your work couldn’t be used. Although there are a few formats of this type {1. We couldn’t find a place for your work in this issue 2. Your work isn’t what we are looking for 3. We aren’t able to use your work at this time, etc…) it all boils down to the same thing; you didn’t get in. The reason I think this form of rejection is the hardest is because it leaves you completely open to interpretation. By not giving you any sort of feedback the editor is letting your mind, already taxed by having to wait for a response, run rampant with the attempt to come up with a solution for why you weren’t able to be published.

This can be quite dangerous. Without being given any reasons why your work wasn’t accepted into one publication or another, you may begin to tell yourself many harmful things. For instance, with my first rejection I told myself that my work was just terrible and that I had no business writing because no one would want to read my work anyway. This is NOT the way to think about it. When receiving an impersonal rejection, the best thing to do is tell yourself that this particular publication just wasn’t for you. Keep your rejections somewhere you can view them – particularly if they are personal, because they will help you to remember to always keep your mind on the areas your work may need a little support.

As an artist of any kind, rejection of a piece of our work can literally feel like the editor is telling us that we aren’t talented and that the piece isn’t fit to be viewed. That is because, no matter how harsh the world is, we are our own worst critic. We will be harder on ourselves than anyone else would ever imagine being, because we feel the true passion that led us to this work. We feel the connection with this work that makes an insult to its composition almost feel like a slap in the face. It is that very passion that should keep us from giving up. We feel strongly about the piece because we know what is behind it, we know what went into it, we know it has worth and we know that it deserves to be seen. So that’s really the point. No matter what kind of rejection you get, it should never make you give up. Whatever you are told (or not told) should only encourage you to further the work on the piece and try again, even if it with another location, if only to prove the person who rejected you wrong. Your work comes for a reason. It demands to be completed because it has a purpose. Somebody out there needs that piece, and it is your job as the artist to make sure they get it!

One thought on “States of Rejection

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s