rule #2 : celebrate rejection

or learn from it, at least.

so, as was inevitable, i arrived home yesterday evening after my final day at the office (from which i was given an extremely touching and unexpected sendoff, complete with an oversized posterboard with my book cover in the center and signed notes and support and encouragement from the whole team filling all the border space – thank you all!), my first moments of unemployed life and the beginning of this whole ‘writer’s life’ i’ve been looking forward to for so long, to the arrival of another rejection letter in the post.

now, this makes three or four this week, and it’s no different than any other week (except last week, of course), but if, like me, you look for omens without wanting to, it could have been that slap of reality (like doing my finances the other morning and concretely identifying my last paycheck).

however, perhaps i was too emotionally drained from the impact of the last day at work and all the things i tried to get done (and those i certainly forgot), or the fact that my car battery was dead in the parking lot when i finally did get out because i’d left the lights on again, or the fact that it was 7 o’clock and already late for dancing class when i walked in the door, but all that really hit me was the secondary message conveyed so often in these formal rejections: to paraphrase, ‘we’re sure it’s great work and don’t take it too hard and you’re bound to find someone with whom this will fit just right and this isn’t a comment on your work but on our limited resources and specific needs’.

puh-lease. are we writers such fragile creatures that we need so much coddling to take the simply professional reality of a “No, thank you?”

And yet, as I type this, I find myself flip-flopping. I don’t condone the clipped, minimalist approach of sending my own query back to me with a tiny square of paper saying ‘Thanks for sending this, but it doesn’t meet our present needs.’ These have the feeling of coldness, with no warm fuzzies for trying to send back to the sending agencies for future works.

I suppose, after further reflection on the various rejections I’ve received, i would have to say there’s a tone, and some turns of phrase that seem to just turn me off, the most prominent of these being, essentially, ‘we recognize the merits of this project…’ or ‘while your proposal is not without merit…’

i mean, really, what’s the point of this, particularly in a form letter? if this is the same response sent to the writer submitting a grammatically challenged, plot-absent work (note my obvious and selfish elitism in this hyper generalization), it loses all validity, and only serves to annoy.

on the other side, a clear statement about the subjectivity of this entire process feels much more honest, even though, as i say, a form letter, by its nature, is devoid of true consideration, connection, or morality. it simply is; a device used to provide a necessary, if often difficult, service.

and there’s the truth and lesson of it, i suppose, for me.

form rejection letters are not to be read into. in persepective, do i get this worked up over the effusive excitement and encouragement in every piece of direct mail advertising, ‘personalised’ with my name, gender, and buying habits from the Big Giant Marketing Database? of course not. i toss most without looking at them, and the few i do read, i skim for the relevant points, then, if interested, i cut out coupon/send response/fill out form, or dump, as i see fit. a service. that’s all.

and the lesson is to identify which responses seem thoughtfully crafted, because, honestly, it only need be done once, so taking the time or not taking the time to create something effective is, itself, a reflection on the agents/agencies who send them. obviously, as a struggling writer seeking representation, i don’t want to burn any bridges, but, ultimately, i’ve committed to putting my everything into my work. do i want to work with someone who cuts corners?

and why would an agent want to work with someone who just complains?

time to start writing.

  1. Young William,
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve done what many of us only wish we had the guts to do. Some day you’ll look back on this and laugh…or perhaps you’ll just laugh. Any whoo buck up old bean and good things will come. Just remember us poor sods at work. You’ve only been gone two days and it’s bloody awful for us. I find myself silently weeping whenever someone (usually Matt) mentions your name.
    “Bob” and Snap Pea

  2. Thanks for the encouragement (and the tears) “Bob”! i’ve actually spent the last three days, and another tomorrow, on the road so it feels more like another long weekend or short vacation. clearly, i haven’t jumped on that ‘time to start writing’, thing, but that’s the topic for an upcoming post.

    as for laughing, well, check back in a few months and we’ll see who’s laughing…if it’s Snap Pea, then i clearly haven’t been sleeping enough.

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