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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rejection

Writers constantly have to deal with rejection. My first was non-professional. It took place in High School when our English teacher allowed the class to rate poetry we had written. I wrote about my city-New York-and I sensed I had impressed our teacher. But the class was under-whelmed. Nothing our insrtuctor said could influence my fellow students. There I was stuck with a B-I tore up the poem.

The second rejection came from another teacher. This time our assignment was to write a short story. I wrote what I considered a larger-than-life romance complete with sexy hero and heroine, moonlight, roses, conflict, divorce and reconciliation. The story came back with, "Worst thing I ever read," scrawled in red ink across the first page.

I was still performing when I began to write a play. I realized that ther were many more parts written for men in plays, motion pictures and television then there were for women. I decided to write a play that focused on women. The play wasn't bad but...that's entirel different blog.

On to another play, a playwriting group, a small award, readings and a fictionalized story about my family-the first story to be published. Then-a box filled with letters of rejection-some encouraging-when an editor took the time to write a few words, some discouraging-a form letter. Then the first check-someone would actually pay to read something I wrote-I phot-copied the check and saved the letter.

Next came articles-historical and travel-with time spent on research. This led, in my opinion, to the most interesting part of rejection-the rare letter that was a put-down instead of a turn-down. Days, sometimes weeks of depression-the article thrown in a drawer until I could take it out, calmly examine the letter, mull it over, sleep on it until I could decide whether the rejection was deserved or whether the rejecter had a bad day. Should the piece be rewritten, destroyed or sent to another magazine? Happy to say the nasty rejections were wrong-the two articles that received them sold to bigger, more prestigious publications that paid a good deal more. What did I learn? Never throw anything out including a High School poem.

I would like to learn about your experiences with rejection and how you handled them.

14 comments:

MaureenAMiller said...

My other half gave me a table book of rejection letters of all shapes and sizes. There was even one in there from an eight year old that said, "Grandma, I can't play with you today. I don't have time."

He couldn't understand why I was not enamored with the book! :)

Barbara Longley said...

After a few years and many, many rejections, I've gotten to the point where I just shrug them off. It only takes one editor/agent who loves it, right? I write the books I want to read, and I'm staying true to my vision. I get terribly discouraged. Then I take a break and remind myself why I write in the first place—because I love it.

Keri Stevens said...

1. Pace the office, panting and repeating, "Okay, okay, okay, okay."
2. Leave the office for broader pacing. Slow down eventually.
3. Forward to critique partners.
4. Reread and pick apart--form? Personalized? Anything useful at all? Anything?
5. Read CPs--"You rock, you fabulous writer, their loss" emails.
6. Pour glass of wine.
7. Return to submission prospects list and begin again.

Toni Anderson said...

You sound very well balanced, Elise. Good for you. For me the effect of rejection depends on who it is from. However, whoever it is from we have to move on and try and find those editors who might appreciate our words.

Elise Warner said...

Love your husband's present, Maureen. Husbands are funny people.

Barbara, Keri and my tech Guru-Toni:
It's so nice having fellow authors to share with.

Jenny Schwartz said...

The strange thing is that much though rejections of my stories hurt at the time, the impersonal ones have faded into oblivion. Really. Oh, death, where is thy sting? But the personalised rejections, those where editors have taken the time to crit and/or encourage, those I remember. Editors are amazingly generous people, and I hope good karma enriches their lives.

Angela Henry said...

When I first started out I used to take them so personally. Now, I realize any agent/editor who isn't in love with my work isn't the right agent/editor for me. If they offer feedback, I mentally file it away and if other agent/editors are all saying the same thing I'll address the issues and send it elsewhere. Like Barbara said, it only take one to say yes.

Marcelle Dubé said...

My office walls are papered with rejections. I learned over the years not to take them personally. Still, every once in a while, one will sneak through my guard and bum me out for a week.

But those editors who take the time to write a note about why the story didn't work for them or their line? They're worth their weight in gold and I always thank them.

Elise Warner said...

Yay for the editors that take the time to encourage.

Wynter Daniels said...

Even after getting a bunch of them, rejections still sting. Some take me longer to shrug off than others. But my wonderful, supportive husband always reminds me of the successes, which help.

Shirley Wells said...

Rejections still sting. As do bad reviews. I've learned (more or less) to have a glass of wine and get on with life. It's just someone's opinion. It doesn't mean the story or the writing is bad. I hated and couldn't finish a book that was in the bestseller charts for months. One man's meat and all that...

Love the story about Maureen's husband. Too funny. :)

Clare London said...

I think the most hopeful thing I've learned is that if one person rejects it, that doesn't mean another one will - that there are many different tastes in the world. I have to remind myself that I'm writing for people who will like my work, not necessarily for a particular template.

One useful thing I was told to help cope with rejection was to go and read (i) something that's dire, so I can reassure myself my writing's better than that *lol*, and (ii) something that's fabulous, so that I'm encouraged to aim higher.

I'm still trying out these strategies, you understand :).

Josh Lanyon said...

I'm still trying to get past the sad excuse for an instructor who wrote "worst thing I ever read" on a student's paper.

Unproductive, unprofessional, inexcusable.

Writers get a lot more rejection and criticism than they do praise and acceptance -- even once they're successful. I think it's proof that no one writes for money alone. There are many other less emotionally wearing ways to earn a living!

Rebecca Rogers Maher said...

I always think of Robert Downey Jr. when this topic comes up. I once read an interview with him where he was asked if he googles himself. To paraphrase, he said yes, he does, and sometimes it's total character assassination, and they get it exactly right. There was nothing anybody could say to this guy that he hadn't already heard or considered himself, and he was at total peace with it. I'm not there yet, but it's something to strive for. Imagine if you had your own number so thoroughly that no one could hurt you, either with mean things you don't agree with or mean things that are actually true. Wouldn't that be great?

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