Most writers have received numerous rejections that read something like this: Thank you for your recent submission, _______. Although your writing shows talent and I found your story to be interesting, I'm afraid it is not for me at this time.
You read and re-read these words, and your mind takes off on a run, with your heart in close tow. Oh, sure. What they're really saying is, 'You can't write worth a damn and your story sucked, big time. You're a LOSER!'
Then you get the old, "you've gotta have a thick skin" lecture from well-meaning friends (or from that chastising voice in your own head.) You search your manuscript, looking for that one word, or line, or paragraph that sabotaged your otherwise brilliant career. Maybe if I change my heroine, her crisis, her background--her underwear! Maybe, then, they'll like me...er...my book.
You can make yourself crazy, trying to figure out what that somewhat cryptic rejection meant. I'm talented and you liked my story---but it's not for you? It begs the question: Are you looking for a no-talent writer to produce a crappy story?
But what if you take the agent, editor or publisher at his/her word? What if you take to heart what has been said? You are talented. You have an interesting story. It's just not what this particular agent or publisher is seeking at the moment.
Who needs a thick skin, when you have an open mind? Think about it. What does this person, who has in all likelihood never met you, stand to gain by lying to you? Do you think they really want to let you down easy by cushioning the fall with false praise?
I'm not asking these questions to challenge you but, rather, to challenge myself. To change the way I view the dreaded rejection letter (which has become a two-line rejection email--even more impersonal).
I received just such an email yesterday, after the publisher held onto the manuscript for eleven months with the note that it "showed potential for their market." I had a choice: I could become angry, frustrated, cynical--let it take me down. Or I could take it in stride, smile at the fact that this particular editor saw something positive in my writing and in my story, and I can reason that I was offering beef when she was hungry for chicken. (Okay, really bad analogy, but you get the point.)
Learning to deal with the rejection that comes with this business can be challenging. Most of us don't write only from our heads. We write from our hearts and souls. And, so, when our work is rejected, it hits us on a personal level. It is personal.
If I believe this editor who said she liked my writing style and found my story to be interesting, and if I take that personally, I should be feeling pretty good about myself about now.
Now go, shake off the dust and re-submit something!