Monday, March 5th, 2007 • 5 Comments on Reject Me, Please
This week I received my first “thanks-but-no-thanks” rejection of the year and it hit me harder than it should have. I’ve been writing (and, therefore, getting rejected) for fifteen years. After the first couple of years (okay, seven) I toughened up enough so that a rejection didn’t mean a ruined day. I’d read it, file it and shrug it off. But I couldn’t shrug this one off. I had to reread it a couple of times. I ignored the comment about my work being “certainly good enough” and honed in on the part that said “we couldn’t fit it in the collection.” I brooded over it. Why didn’t it fit? Why wasn’t I good enough? Why?
After the sting of rejection wore off (and given that I’m not eating chocolate right now, it took even longer than it should have), I contemplated why this particular rejection had bothered me so much. I know the story is good enough to be published and have no doubt I’ll find a home for it—probably within the next six months. I have been selling 75% to 80% of my work on the first submission and another 10% to 15% by the second or third submission. I have written very, very few things in the past three years that I haven’t sold. That’s good, right? That’s worth celebrating, right?
No. That’s the problem.
I think the reason this particular rejection hurt was for the very fact that I’ve been selling so much. I’ve gotten soft. Complacent. Spoiled. I write it, I sell it. It’s sweet, but when it happens too many times in a row I get lazy. So now I’m second guessing this submission. Should I have put more time into it? Could I have made it a better story? Did I do everything I could to make it my best work? I really don’t know yet because I haven’t reread it, but I can’t help but wonder.
The other problem with selling consistently is that it means I’ve gotten comfortable. I’m in a nice, safe place where I can write and sell and it’s a warm and fuzzy place to be. Who wouldn’t want to be told how wonderful their writing is, how talented they are, how perfect their story is for a project? No one, and I’m no exception. But when all I’m doing is selling it means I’m not challenging myself. Not pushing beyond what is expected of me, not raising the bar for myself, not trying new, different, scary things. And that’s what writing is all about—or it should be.
So, my first rejection of 2007 is behind me and I doubt the next one will bother me as much. It may sound crazy, but I’m going to try to get that next rejection really soon—for something that’s daring and different and completely unlike anything I’ve ever written before—because as long as I have the safety net of all these other sales, I might as well take a chance and try to get rejected. What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll make another sale and expand my horizons.