Rejection is hard.
Some people handle it better than others, but it affects us all.
A post popped up on my “Memories” on Facebook. I think I had just gotten a rejection from someone I’d pitched to and was processing through it with a friend. She said, “We eat rejection for breakfast,” to which I replied, “Yes, but it gives us heartburn.”
I’ve had to deal with that again this week. A rejection from a publisher I’d pitched to.
And it doesn’t get easier.
Sometimes it matters less, like if I wasn’t terribly enthused about the agent or publisher I was pitching to in the first place, and that makes it easier to get over. But it doesn’t hurt less.
Writing is incredibly personal. We all know this. And while we know that rejection is part of the business, an integral part of the learning curve of studying, improving, rewriting, and trying again, it still feels personal. We have spent countless hours–days, weeks, sometimes years–writing and rewriting and editing and getting feedback and rewriting again, before finally setting it before The Powers that Be for their judgment.
And then those Powers tell you your work isn’t good enough.
They usually say it nicer than that. “This wasn’t right for us,” “This part was good but I didn’t connect with the character,” “Your this-that-or-the-other needs work.”
Editing for Havok, I have to do the same thing to people. I always try to give feedback that will help them improve, but I try to say it in a nice way so they don’t think I think they’re terrible writers. But it’s hard. It’s hard to give constructive criticism, which is why most people, in general, have a hard time. We hear the criticism, but it’s hard to filter that and collect the constructive elements.
And with writing especially, when we’ve invested so much of ourselves into our work, the words “It’s not good enough” sound a lot like “You’re not good enough.”
But, like anything, it all depends on what we do with that.
Do we let it destroy us? Or do we take the constructive and use it to improve? Do we try again? Do we filter one person’s opinion based on feedback from others and build on that knowledge to make our work that much better?
That, I think, is what separates the people who succeed from those who fizzle out. I’ve often said it only takes about ten or fifteen years to become an overnight success. If rejection pierces us so we can’t go on, then we’ll never get there. But if we can keep trying, using those difficult moments to improve, then eventually we’ll see success.
Eventually, we’ll eat rejection for breakfast. Even if it gives us heartburn.