Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Getting Dumped, or Dealing with the Dreaded Rejection Letter

Last month I was dumped three times in the span of a week.  Ditched, dismissed, let down easy.  I was reeling.  What had I done wrong?  It wasn't him so it had to be me.  It was me.  I just wasn't worthy enough.

It sucked.  Hard.

But before you think the worst of my dating record, I'll let you know that my rejections came from the most likely sources in my life: publishers.  I sent out three short stories, all brimming with hope and creativity, only to have them rejected with the same formulaic phrases.

We regret to inform you...

Your story was not the right fit for our...

Good luck placing your work elsewhere...

Regret.  Wrong fit?  Good luck!?!  All daggers through my heart.

I don't know which rejection letters bother me the most: the personalized "some of us liked it but most of us didn't" or the well-meaning boilerplates.  I suppose they both come down to the same thing.  Wrong fit.  Wrong story.  Wrong time.  Not good enough.

Rejection hits us writers right in the gut.  It's a low blow and it's all the more painful for the fact that it is done so impersonally.  Even the most gentle, the most carefully crafted, rejection letter is still one of the worst things a writer can go through.  And we have to go through it (unless you're one of the lucky few who get published on your first try, every time).  Again, and again, and again.

So, how do I deal with getting dumped?

You hear stories about writers who plaster their walls with their rejection letters or keep them stashed in a binder, preserved in plastic, like a badge of honour.  I save mine too but I put them away in a box along with my other papers or hide them deep in my Saved folder, never again to see the light of day.  On a practical level, I want a record of where I have submitted a particular story and how long they took to respond, etc.  Sure, it's all practical.  Don't tell me I'm the only one who dreams of sweet revenge involving a huge payout for the self-same story that was rejected by one publisher, and waving that big cheque in the unfortunate loser's face.  Ahhh.  That would be sweet.

On another level, enough rejection numbs you to the process somewhat (but three in one week, come on!).  You take less and less time to recover, and you bounce back sooner with a new story idea, a new bit of inspiration -- and a new target for your revenge fantasy.  Success and beautiful vindication.  It's what we all strive for, what we must continue to strive despite the ugly letters.  Revenge.  Because, really, isn't that what it's all about?

Photo courtesy of anankkml at freedigitalphotos.net

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