Some months ago, one of my short stories was rejected by a magazine, whereupon I canceled my subscription to that magazine and threw out all the copies of it that I owned. And I had been collecting them for years. So, if you are looking for a mature exposition on how to deal with rejection, this is not it. I freely concede all the obvious things: rejection is demoralizing and depressing and painful.
However, I am often struck by how many of my students—and I’m talking about good writers here–want to send out work, but don’t. (I’m thinking of someone specific here, and you know who you are.) The unfortunate fact is that it is very difficult to be published without sending your work out.
I know. The moment I write this, someone is going to say, Aha! I know someone who was at a playground and chatting with a woman, and that woman turned out to be the head of Random House and she offered to read this mother’s manuscript and now it is going to be published. So she didn’t have to send out her manuscript at all! Actually, I met someone who tortured me one Thanksgiving by telling me a story very similar to this, but then she wound up not writing the book and running off with her garage mechanic instead. Or something like that. But the point is, that you can’t base your career on the hopes of befriending the head of a major publishing house at a playground.
So my suggestion is to come up with a plan that acknowledges you are likely to get rejected but allows you to move forward.
For example, I always keep a stack of envelopes, stamped and addressed, with my story inside, and the moment the rejection comes in, I grab one of those envelopes and send it out. I don’t even think about it. I don’t say to myself—oh, they rejected it so now I should rewrite the whole thing. You could spend your life rewriting stories. (I’m assuming, of course, that you waited until the story was done before you sent it out in the first place.)
Also, keep working on something new. The moment you start sending out one story, you should start working on another. I always think my new project is better than my last one, so when the rejection comes in, I say, okay, I would have rejected that too. But this one is better.
Finally, keep in mind that everyone gets rejected.
I’ve had a run of good luck lately. My book is being published and I just found out that Target!!! will be carrying my book. (Along with Barnes & Noble and amazon and lots of wonderful independent bookstores.) But the point is, you’d think I could coast a little. But no, I can’t. Believe me when I say, there are still plenty of editors out there who are just waiting to reject me. My only solace is that I have a somewhat better ego than when I first started out, but that’s not saying a lot.
So, it’s almost the New Year, which is a good time to make resolutions. See if you can get up your courage and let me know what happens.