Let’s face it, writing is a hobby that makes us naturally susceptible to rejection. Sure, there are the writers like Jack Gilbert, who published world-renowned poetry and then disappeared for years at a time before coming out with his next piece of writing. Or writers like Walt Whitman, who stood against the boundaries set by society for writers without caring what people said, and quickly became famous for his unique work.
But not all of us are naturally that patient or resilient. Sometimes it can make us feel vulnerable to show our writing to people; or, for me, I’m fine with others reading my work, but then I’m disappointed if they don’t react the way I hoped.
The thing is, rejection is so important on our journeys as writers. I know, that sounds like the kind of thing your mother tells you when you’re little. Seriously, though, it’s the honest truth. Rejection, though it may seem to be a contradictory statement, is extremely helpful in building confidence and making writers more knowledgeable in their craft.
Rejection tells us what we’re doing wrong, and also what we’re doing right. I queried eight agents about my novella Darkness Rise a few months ago, and I quickly learned that I’d written a good query. You know how I knew that? Each and every agent who replied to me talked about my actual writing, meaning that they had gotten past the query and began to read my book. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but you have to realize: If a query is unprofessional or uninteresting, an agent (who has a lot of material to read every day) wouldn’t have any reason to go beyond the query letter. This is one of the things you can learn from rejection.
Also, some agents will give feedback if they think you or your project has potential. For some reason I can’t explain, I feel more encouraged after reading rejections. I think it’s because I know that people that could be of importance to my writing career are reading my writing, which is an exciting thought.
I want to share a reply I received from an agent (I won’t give her name for privacy reasons). It was very inspiring, and I’m very thankful to her for taking the time to say more than the usual reply, ‘unfortunately I’m not interested at this time.’ This might also be helpful for those of you who are just beginning your search for an agent and need somewhere to start, or if you’re wondering what to expect.
For example, my query had drawn her in, but the beginning of my book wasn’t hooking. To be completely honest, my Mom told me the same thing. Now, months later, I noticed it myself. When my Mom read a piece of writing I wrote recently, she said, “If you’d started Darkness Rise like this, you’d have been scooped up by an agent immediately.”
So that was one thing I’ve learned from rejection.
Rejection is not a bad thing. It makes you stronger, it teaches you, and, like many parts of life (take it from a deer hunter), it makes the time that you hit the target so much sweeter!
Choose a mantra to live by:
A. If I don’t try I won’t succeed.
B. If I never try I’ll never fail.
Now live with it. Once you make your choice, follow it.
And if you want to be a writer, my friends, I have a small piece of advice for you: Choose A. But then again, it’s your choice.