I hate rejection just as much as anyone else. I mean what’s to like, right? But I’m sometimes surprised how much writers’ fear of rejection can chart the course of their careers. I’ve met many talented writers who talk about publication wistfully, but when I ask where they’ve submitted, they’re sort of taken aback and say something like, “Well, I sent something to the Atlantic Monthly but after they shot me down, I thought what’s the point.”
The Atlantic Monthly? Yes, it would be exciting to publish there. But, in the meantime, why not bring the bar down just a tiny, tiny bit and consider some of the zillions of other place that just might publish your work. But then again, they might not. I sometimes tell my students (I love to make up numbers and statistics, so bear with me): Expect to be rejected 50 times for every acceptance. The number is probably high, but I’ve always been a part of the lets-just-be-braced-for-the-worst school of thought. But never mind the number–the truth is if you’re going to be published, you’re most likely going to experience a good deal of rejection between now and then. And, yes, it is a special sort of misery. And, yes, I think it’s miserable in a very special way when you’re writing about your own life. But, avoiding that misery means most definitely avoiding the joy of acceptance and publication.
Someone recently told me that the most profound sentence they ever heard in any therapy session was this: “You can’t go through life avoiding heartbreak. Heartbreak is part of life.” And heartbreak is most definitely part of a writer’s life. But so what? Yes, you’ll be sad when your work is rejected and–if you’re like me– sob into the sofa for a while. But then you’ll get up and make yourself a cup of tea and get to work again. There’s no rejection you can’t make it through. But, the not trying– that’s the thing I don’t think we can make it through. That’s where your spirit really can be broken.
“What we anticipate seldom occurs: but what we least expect generally happens.”