I believed that eventually I would get used to rejection. That I would learn to accept rejection as an inevitable part of the publishing business. I wanted a thick skin and a will to persevere.
But this weekend I realized it’s not happening. Not for me, anyway. Maybe some writers don’t care about rejections, but I can’t ignore them.
My expectation was that receiving more and more rejections would make me tougher and tougher. But instead, I find that years of rejection have worn me down. Instead of getting stronger, I’ve become weak. Instead of growing a thick skin, I’ve become fragile, to the point that one harshly worded rejection leaves me filled with self-doubt.
And that rejection wasn’t even on my book.
A potential client rejected me as her editor. My sample edit did not meet her expectations, and my quote was “really too high.”
So I started questioning myself. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe at my skill level I have no business charging those rates. Maybe I should quit and go back to secretarial work.
Does anyone even hire secretaries anymore?
These kinds of doubts are what keep me from self-publishing. What if all those gatekeepers who’ve rejected my book are right? What if my writing really is “not distinctive enough”? I might self-publish only to tank.
Maybe the gatekeepers are saving me from myself.
Of course, we all get multiple rejections, large or small, every day. If it’s not the bank teller who puts up the “window closed” sign just when you get to the front of the line, it’s the cool kids after church or around the water cooler who exclude you from their conversation, or the neighbor or relative who severs contact with you for no apparent reason.
Some forms of rejection are worse than others, obviously. The estranged relative is a much bigger deal than the teller taking a lunch break. The editor who says your writing “does not meet our needs at this time” is less a concern that the agent who tells you to “give up” on the book of your heart and “try something else.”
But they all compound one another.
Faced with rejection … again … you can only set it aside, focus on your purpose and what’s within your control, and keep going.
I have heard repeatedly that perseverance is the key to success. That doesn’t make it any easier.
But it’s being difficult doesn’t make it any less necessary.