The Science of Rejection
A good friend once sent me a post that came at the best and worst time of my writing career. It was a post about rejection, and how it was not only inevitable, but constant. "Not 'if' you get rejected, but 'when'" it repeated.
It's true enough. I am not new to rejection. I doubt there are more than a handful of people in the entire world who are unfamiliar with it. Rejection is a constant hum that hangs over you, like a mosquito in your room that you know will bite you but you can't see it and find it to clap it dead.
Most of the time, you find a way to ignore it - it's always there, and it always will be, and surely most of the time it's a passing thing that goes on its way? Most of the time. Some of the time it hits at the wrong turn of the mood, or at a bad time of the year, and suddenly it's an overwhelming ocean you can't breach the surface of no matter how hard you try.
I've had a few of those days, recently.
And it's interesting to me that my immediate response was to shrug it off, claim that there was always another opportunity and another time to submit the story, that perhaps this one just didn't gel with the editor, and that's not a reflection on me... my immediate response was to make light of it, to find the positives, to be a humble and grateful writer.
To quote The Matrix, "fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."
This post happened upon my timeline within an hour of the first of what is now three rejections in two days.
So, I've decided to parse through rejection in a different way, today, and accept the feelings that come with it. Hopefully this will help anyone else going through a similar tailspin, or at least give them a laugh if they're not.
Firstly, I am mad. I am genuinely mad that some rejections come within 8 hours of your initial submission, telling you in a polite copy-paste way that you're appreciated but not good enough. Surely it takes longer than 8 hours to decide. Surely it takes longer than that when they claim in the aforementioned email that over 150 stories were sent in. Was there an agenda? Were people already selected? If so then take the call down, let people know not to bother.
Next, I am heartbroken. I understand, logically, that everything is in the eye of the beholder/reader/editor/judge, I get that. That doesn't stop me from being upset as heck because something I worked so hard on, and put my soul into, wasn't even worth a longer look.
After that, I'm exhausted. I am so exhausted. I am tired of putting on a happy front about how next time will be the right time, I am tired of being positive when I want to go into a soundproof room and SCREAM about the injustice of it all.
In the end, I am back to status quo.
It doesn't take long for me anymore, no more than an hour, two at most if the story really took something out of me to write. But what I've realized is that I don't let myself do that properly anymore, I don't let myself grieve, in a way, for that lost opportunity because I sweep it under the rug of taking everything lightly and putting on a tough-as-nails front. You can only do that for so long before the nails start to bend under the pressure.
So I guess the tl;dr of this is that rejection is inevitable, and that you should allow yourself to go through your own process of dealing with it.
I am entirely genuine in my positive posts, I truly believe that next time will be the right time, I truly believe that rejection teaches you more than it harms you, and I really do know that it makes me stronger. At the same time, once in a while, I am also allowed to be the person who is upset by it, who curls into a ball and complains, who tries to call the universe out on being an asshole.
Coz it is an asshole.
But it's also old enough to not give a damn what I think about it.
Onwards and upwards, readers and writers and creative explorers. It is not this day, after all.