Monday, September 23, 2013

What to do with rejection

I came across some wisdom this week I thought might be of benefit to not only writers, but others, as well. So stay with me here.

Writers hone a manuscript for months and years, trying to raise the writing to the highest possible level. Let’s face it; it’s never going to be perfect. Leonardo da Vinci is sometimes credited as saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At a point when one can’t stand to look at our manuscript one more second, we submit it for consideration.

After writing tens of thousands of words and years of investment, someone like an editor or an agent considers the work and makes a decision.

And then the rejections can come, but more often we don’t hear from the submission. We can only deduce after months of waiting, that a rejection is implied.

Therefore, the writer attempts to shake it off, and . . . start all over. Writing tens of thousands of words, investing more years and producing another manuscript.

More rejections. More silence.

Write, submit, reject, repeat.

I saw a graph recently that indicated the average time it takes to get a royalty contract is ten years. That’s right, ten years.

And after the tens of thousands words turn into hundreds of thousands, and then  a million, one can start to believe that little voice in the head that says, “You are a failure.”

I received  Rachelle Gardner’s blog for Books and Such
this week entitled “What is the opposite of success?” In it, she writes the opposite of success is not failure, “the opposite of success is learning."

Taking that view helps one reframe those rejections, because sometimes within them can be one kernel of information that might help us craft future work. Years ago, in a rejection, an editor remarked positively on quotes I’d included in a manuscript. By God’s grace, I was able to allow that comment to inspire a whole story line that turned out to be my screenplay, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, which was a finalist for the Kairos Prize. If I had failed to listen to that editor, I might have missed the next thing God had for me.

Gardner says, “The point is not to wallow in failure, but instead to appreciate the learning.” If we can flip the rejection, we’ll often find a bridge to the next thing God has for us. I think of Malcolm Gladwell who wrote in Outliers, that, “. . . researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Ten thousand hours of labor at that which you long to excel.

In many ways, it boils down to continuing to read and learn, and working really hard.

For those of you attempting to do things which make you vulnerable to rejection, and you’re getting  those, “Thank you for your interest, but . . .” messages, keep up your courage.

If you’re like me, prone to wallowing occasionally, let’s get up and press on. We’re just learning.

A lot.

For writers out there, please subscribe to literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog. It’s one of the best in the industry.
"That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (Romans 8:28 The Message).



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