The Art of Being Rejected...
|Says the man with more money than me...|
So, I'm going through a spell of rejections.
Notice how I say "spell" as if the rejectors are some sort of witch clan sending me a bit of negative karma. Or maybe I mean "spell" because spells are temporary, spells are something that happens to you, but ultimately, every spell will break eventually. Even my beloved Red Sox's curse went away.
But I am. Being rejected that is.
From a young editor from a tiny publication who wrote to me and said, "Please send us your poems, we would love to publish you and it would help our journal," who upon seeing my poems wrote, "They were good, just not right for our publication."
While I am being rejected, friends are having major successes. A third book deal (congrats Ms. Jeannine Hall Gailey), 2 acceptances to fantastic journals (congrats to Ms. Susan Rich), a new book and Poet Laureateship (congrats to Ms. Kathleen Flenniken), not too mention all the other good news that have flown by me like clouds in the last three months. (Insert cheesy 80's song: ... What about me? It isn't fair, I've had enough, now I want my share...)
I heard a now-very-rich-and-famous fiction writer read who said during his reading, "When my friends get published and I don't, a part of me dies..." - he was joking (um, kind of), but sometimes it feels as if everyone is holding a trophy and you have your "thanks for trying" ribbon, you can feel a little left out.
After writing, submitting, and publishing for over 10 years, I find it interesting how my emotions still fall back on the need for outside validation. That Sally Field acceptance speech, "You like me, you really like me!" Is that all we want? Isn't there a deeper fulfillment?
When my friends are being named pageant queens and receiving tiaras on a daily basis, I remind myself The Artist's Way good karma message, "Success occurs in clusters." If they're winning awards, receiving publications, and all good things, then I'm next... right?
Oh the negative-critic voice speaks up, "Nope, your time is over." (Thank you, Ms. Inner Doubtfulness.)
But there's also humor to this phase of rejections.
For example, an editor whom I know personally from a very prestigious journal wrote me this painfully funny rejection:
"I liked 'PoemX' quite a lot, but I felt that you gave up the poetry in the last stanza and settled for a brief speech instead."
Actually, good advice, but I've been amused with that "brief speech" comment for the last week. I sometimes think I end all my conversations with a brief speech (think Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women), so the fact I included that in my poetry made me laugh a little.
Now, cut to my kitchen the other morning with my husband and daughter. My daughter had overheard me telling a friend that I was rejected by this male editor who was about nineteen and his start-up journal, which he asked me to submit poems to.
We're having breakfast and my husband asks me how things were going?
And I say, "You know, it's been a tough couple of weeks."
"Why?" he asks like a good caring husband.
And before I am able to say anything my daughter adds, "Oh, mom was rejected by a teenage boy."
My husband: Really? Is there something I should know here?
Yes, not only am I being rejected, but my rejections have me looking like Mrs. Robinson to my family--Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you're trying to tell me?
I've been eight days since I started writing this Art of Rejection blog post and to be honest, all of blah-blahs that can sometimes come with rejections has worn off.
What I realize is we can't possibly be accepted all the time and if we did, being accepted would lose its magic and fun.
I also realize, my joy is in the writing. As much as I can sometimes tie my happiness onto a publication agreement, my kite is the ultimately the act of writing. Publication and where my poems go after I send them out into the world are the clouds passing by and stars circling.
Dark days come and dark days go.
We are all in this together and rejection happens to everyone. Everyone.
Try not to let it bring you to the "what about me?" 80's song place and if you go to the 80's song place, try to end up in Howard Jone's song "Things Can Only Get Better..." Thank you, Howard Jones.