I’ve been married now for a little over two years and I love married life. When you find that person and commit to them with that level of sincerity, it can solidify you. But there was a time when I wasn’t married and went clubbing three times a week and asked girls to dance or for their numbers and got rejected so often you might’ve thought I had a Surgeon General’s warning printed on my forehead:
WARNING: Do not date this man. Actually, don’t even talk to him. If it doesn’t work out, he will write about you in a future novel or blog post and he won’t change your name (which isn’t true... I’ll at least change the name... maybe).
In my late teens and early twenties, rejection like that bothered me a lot. I’d finally get a date and not get a second date. Once, a girl asked me to sing to her on the phone and afterwards never called me back because I sing like a dying pig. Still, I felt like I had a lot to offer and wasn’t being given a chance for whatever reason. After a long night at the bar or club or one of those set-ups where your friends go out as a group to try and introduce you to someone, I’d stay up at night and wonder what was wrong with me.
I talk to my single friends now and it seems even worse. I keep hearing, “How do you meet someone?” You’ve got Match.com, Tinder, Christian Mingle, and a million other sites and apps all designed to help you meet people. But in a lot of ways, rejection of this sort is even worse. Instead of those 5-10 girls I got rejected by on any given night, thousands of people could be looking at your profile or your pic and “swiping right.” A lot of my single friends refuse to get back on these sites for such a reason. You put a little of yourself out there only to get smacked in the face.
Now that submitting stories to lit mags and queries to agents is part of my daily life, it almost feels like I’m trying to start dating again. I counted how many I received last year and it was close to 200. These letters have ranged from the “this is a you suck form letter and we are really busy which is to say it wasn’t good enough to warrant some additional comments” to the “wow, this is great, but doesn’t fit what we’re looking for, so please send us more of your work in the future” letters. It really doesn’t matter, though, does it? Rejection is rejection.
But if you are reading this, then you’ve likely committed to the first step. You’ve submitted a story here or somewhere else. You’ve put yourself out there. I know a few writers who are so scared of rejection they never submit anywhere. Don’t be that person unless you really want to be. It’s like your friend who says “all men are douches” or “no woman really wants a nice man” as a cover for their own insecurities and never puts themselves out there. So you’ve commited to submitting stories but now you’re getting rejected and thinking of quitting. Here are a couple tips to keep you chugging along:
1) Look at the stuff you’re writing. It’s likely that you’re writing the stuff you think other people want to read instead of writing what’s really within you. So stop doing that. Meditate for 20 minutes, then immediately after, put your projects away and write what’s in your soul. Even if it starts out as a poem or a journal entry, do it. You’ll be amazed at how more successful you’ll be if you’re being yourself.
2) Why are you writing? Write down the reasons. For me, it’s understanding more about myself, other people, society, the world. It’s about connection. It’s about breaking down people’s barriers (and my own) and developing relationships.
Then ask yourself why you are submitting? Write down the reasons. Are you hoping to develop a career as an author and not have to work a 9 to 5 (my hand is raised)? Is even a part of you craving validation that you are doing something worthy and different in the world (guilty again)?
Take a look at both lists and figure out if they jibe. If they don’t, why not? Understanding your motivations can go a long way in reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Probably, those reasons are greater than the depressed state we all get when we get rejected.
All of the editors of From Sac are writers as well and trust us, we’ve received tons of rejection letters. We hate receiving them and we hate sending them. We go through periods of doubt and failure and hopelessness. It hurts to put yourself out there and continually get shot down. There have been several times where I thought of quitting, of how easier life would be if I didn’t have to deal with these levels of rejection.
But then I remember the last time I was single. I’d made a major life decision to quit a career and go back to school to learn how to write. I moved back in with my parents. I drove my dad’s cargo van at times. I’d decided that I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I knew who I was and I’d spent so much time being someone else that I thought people wanted me to be. And it was then, broke and one of the oldest people in all my classes, that I met my wife.
We all have stories like this. Times where we were true to ourselves and good things happened. As long as you are being you, writing what you want, submitting for the reasons that are right for you, then rejection is nothing to get down over. Because that means you’re a writer, and that’s awesome.
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