One day you’ll apply for a job, make it through the interview in your uncomfortably tight slacks, and walk away with nothing more than a self-inflicted wedgie rash. Or you’ll try out for a sports team only to get beat out by a fat-assed bench warmer. Or you’ll meet the woman/man of your dreams, play board games and watch crappy movies together every night for months on end, and then discover they’re just not into you.
A small percentage of people may traipse through life unscathed, but the rest of us poor schmucks have to face our inevitable clash(es) with rejection. And handling it can be rough. It can leave your confidence shattered, your hopes dashed, your heart three times smaller, and your dick shriveled. (Or is that just me?)
Fortunately for all the losers out there, rejection is an art form one can master.
Oh, the Humility!
By early 2013, my first novel had gone through countless drafts and was as polished as it could be. There was only one dreadful thing left to do: Take a plunge into the publishing side of the writing world.
But I was hesitant. I’d already gone through the spectrum of rejection life has to offer: women, jobs, short stories, auditions for male stripper gigs.
I’d tasted rejection so many times that it’d become as tasteless as this blog. It often stung and burrowed into the core of my soul, leaving me paralyzed by irrational fears. So why would I want to face that shit again?
Because, through the years, I’d learned just how much humility factored into overcoming rejection.
I had to humble myself and work up the courage to face rejection once again. I had to admit not everyone would enjoy my writing style, the genre, the multiple points-of-view, the plot, even my apparent disregard for existing vampire lore. No matter how much I wanted it to, it just wouldn’t appeal to everyone.
Rejection was inevitable. Thus I swallowed down my anxiety, jabbed my inflated ego with a sharp needle, let some awesomeness seep out, and sent query letters to a handful of literary agents. Months passed. One or two replied with obvious form letters. Undeterred, I sent a few more queries out. Then a few more.
After six months, I’d queried 13 agents/publishers. Of that, only half responded. Of those replies, only one offered specific feedback, and that was in the form of, “Vampires have permeated literature this past decade, so we will have to pass.”
I was crushed, but I refused to slip into that cold pit of despair. I had to defeat rejection.
I just needed the right recipe.
The Secret Ingredients
Rejection might leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, like that time you kissed your prostitute girlfriend and realized (too late!) it wasn’t mayonnaise stuck to her lip. However, once rejection locks its beady-eyed gaze on you, you have to be able to glare back with an equally soul-sucking fire.
So what are the secret ingredients for coping with rejection?
Nah. Maybe something a bit more extreme?
No, that’s probably not the best way, either.
How about wisdom?
After my rejections piled up without concrete feedback, I took a step back and analyzed the meaning behind the generic responses. Maybe the query needed to be more succinct and interesting. Maybe the story wasn’t edited well enough. Maybe I was seeking representation from overworked agents, or I’d botched my initial research and queried people who didn’t represent my type of work.
Aside from speaking to those who rejected me one-on-one, I’d never know the answer. However, something wasn’t working.
Instead of flipping the naysayers the bird, I scrutinized my query letters and pared them down to size. I edited my novel one more time and reached out to new beta readers. And then I added a dash of perseverance to really kick it up a notch.
was am an unknown author, and regardless of the lack of interest in my work, I knew absolutely no one would read or publish it if I didn’t put it out there. So rather than roll over and wave a little white flag, I changed my mode of attack. Instead of targeting those with a broad taste in genre fiction, I stalked researched more small presses outside the normal Writer’s Market bubble, seeking those with a tighter grasp on a niche more suitable for my work.
With a more streamlined approach, I found a reputable publisher who specialized in horror/apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic works. After applying crucial beta reader feedback, I revamped the manuscript, formatted it per the guidelines, sent the submission package, and then sprinkled the final ingredient onto the meat of it all: patience.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.
Within 12 hours and 4 minutes of submission, the publisher contacted me, and I eventually signed a contract for a trilogy.
Knee-Jerkin’ Is Frowned Upon In These Parts, Buddy
I could’ve reacted differently to the first round of rejection letters. I could’ve given up on my dream to be a published novelist. I could’ve pigged out and then whined about my weight gain. I could’ve drowned my sorrows in alcohol or turned to illicit drugs to ease the pain. I could’ve punched a wall or destroyed my wife’s Biggest Loser DVD in a fit of rage. And sure, I could’ve planned some sort of epic revenge on that motherfucker who turned down my Vampire Care Bears screenplay, some dark scheme involving a plunger, a turkey baster, and gallons of baby oil.
But did I really want to ruin my reputation before I got to see Sucky Bear and all his buddies in action?
(*Note: I did not, in fact, write such a screenplay, though it sounds worthy of innumerable accolades.)
I wanted to succeed. I wanted to point and laugh at all the agents who rejected my work. I wanted to be able to hound people to buy my shoddy word vomit. Wallowing in self defeat would’ve gotten me nowhere, so I persevered instead.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being angry about rejection. It’s okay if you cry, too, ya big sissy. But once those initial phases pass, it’s time to take a deep breath, reach deep inside yourself, and dive head-first back into the dirty waters of possible rejection.
Handling rejection is an art form that anyone can master by following this simple recipe: Use your experiences to gain some wisdom, apply your newfound knowledge and jump back into the fray (perseverance), and then wait patiently while destiny unfolds.
And if none of that works for you, occasional drunken karaoke is always a go-to ingredient, too.
So stop mopin’ around, reading a shitty blog post about rejection. Dust your puny shoulders off, stand up, raise both middle fingers high in the air, and bitch-slap rejection before it latches on and skull fucks you.
Stay tuned. There’s more randomosity coming soon.