"Love and marriage, love and marriage,
They go together like a horse and carriage."
There's something else that goes together like a horse and carriage, and I'm not talking about peanut butter and jelly. I'm talking about writers and rejection. It's a lesson every writer must learn before they start sending their work out into the world and if you think you can avoid it, think again. It's a rite of passage we all must go through.
I was very lucky. When I first started showing my work to a Writer in Residence, she was very supportive and helpful, but she was also very realistic. She told me right from the start not to send my work out if rejection was something I couldn't handle. And if I had any illusions over how much rejection there would be, she squashed them when she told me that for every 100 submissions I made, I could expect 99 rejections. With such a blunt and abrupt truth welded to my brain, I began sending out my work. And you know what? With that bit of knowledge already crystal clear in my mind, I found the rejections didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought they would.
Sure, rejection is still disappointing. I would like nothing more than to find a good home for my work, to be able to share it with the world and get paid for it. But being realistic has kept me from feeling too down on myself. I know the odds are against me, and it makes me appreciate every kind word, every small bit of praise. I've learned to appreciate the personalized rejections, the ones that say "this was great, but..." or "we really enjoyed your piece. Unfortunately..." I seize upon those words "enjoyed" and "great". I read them over and over again, smiling because my piece was good enough to warrant a personal touch. I'm improving, I whisper to myself with excitement.
There are some that hurt more than others. There are programs I've applied for and haven't made the cut. I wasn't good enough, I realize. There were far too many that were better than me. And that is always a lonely feeling. There are publications that I thought a piece of writing was absolutely perfect for, and I couldn't help but feel that this was going to be my one out of a hundred. But they weren't. They still sent a polite, impersonal rejection. And a little voice whispered, no one will ever read this.
The important thing is to keep moving forward. Perhaps no one will read it now, but they might later. Each new project gives me hope. Each reworked and edited piece of writing could be the draft that makes it. Rejection stings, but you can't win if you don't play. And one day, I want to be able to think about a particularly painful rejection and say to myself, I bet they feel stupid now.