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Rejection is an ordinary part of life. And, while there may be some added emotional sting to the rejection that comes with creative pursuits, it is still no different than the rejection that greets us every day. I am practiced at rejection. I like to mention to people who think that they will work at a library that I got hired on my 98th application. I have submitted poetry to literary journals every week for almost two years now. I went through a list of over 150 agents when I was first pitching my first novel. Rejection is something that I have a lot of practice at.
I am so, so very bad at taking rejection.
When I found out that I had been turned down from the art school during undergrad, I stopped attending classes, I threw away a significant portion of my art supplies, and I stopped drawing for about eight years. Although I eventually returned to art, I still don't sketch, and I still rarely paint. The sting of that rejection lingers, and derailed what might have been a successful career.
When I asked a friend out, and was rejected, I didn't just stop hanging out with that friend. I stopped hanging out with that entire friend group.
When I didn't get into The Voice, I stopped trying to make a career of singing and dropped out of my band. Maybe that's why I stopped singing altogether.
I'm really bad at accepting rejection. I take it too personally, and I take it as a sum total judgement, instead of a personal preference. I let the weight of that judgement spread through me like a rot, until it feels like everything is worthless, and I am garbage. I'm good at appearing gracious, at taking the ideas to heart without getting too upset. Then I go home and fall apart.
The thing is, I know that I am pretty good at writing. It isn't a pride thing, it is a skill that I have spent almost two decades now honing. And, I've gotten pretty good. There is a lot of space for improvement, and I am constantly working on it. But, the thing is, I've spent enough time actively working to improve that I know about where I am on the scale. So, of all the things for me to be prickly about, writing shouldn't be one of them. But, if anything, it makes it worse.
Because, I know that if technique and skill isn't the issue, then the problem becomes the fuzzier aspects: characters, plotting, ideas. If my writing is good enough to carry stories of middling interest, then the only reason anyone wouldn't like my book is because they aren't of even middling interest.
And, I know that it isn't fair. After all, readership is a complicated thing, and everyone has preferences that they might not even be able to explain. I'm picky, and my list of "won't touch that genre unless it's been recommended by more than four people or one trusted person" is extensive. So, why should I expect the story that moves me to be one that automatically moves everyone else?
But, it doesn't stop it from hurting. And, the economics of existing in today's culture aren't helping. It is becoming harder and harder to find time to do anything that doesn't pay, or doesn't make me human again, so I can handle working more. Writing, especially the good stuff, not the fast typed, rapid fire grammatically messy, bloggy type, but the pulled from the soul earnest kind—that is exhausting. And, I don't really have the bandwidth for the not-exhausting, let alone the exhausting. So, it is easy to take all the rejection, and just take it to heart, to tell myself that maybe I should give up. No one is going to pay me for this shit, so I really ought to focus on projects that pay.
The worst part, is that I am having to focus on projects that pay, and I can't tell if it is me giving up, or just me making the practical choice. Everyone says I can continue to pursue it on the side, and I don't think they realize how little on the side I have. Maybe, I've worn my grit down, and I am just going to slip quietly into the night with everyone else who has a novel. Maybe it is a good thing that I am.
Read More of My Ongoing Meltdown
Last Week's (Pt. 24)
First Week's (Pt. 1)