Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I collect nos. And if you're a writer ( or anyone looking for a job these days), you probably do, too. Unless you're Stephen King's wife or Mary Higgins Clark's daughter, you're likely to amass hundreds, if not thousands of rejection letters. I refuse to count, but I have a friend who keeps a tally. A student alphabetizes every rejection by the agent's last name; another catalogs them by date received. Some people hang them up on a wall; some burn them in a cleansing ritual; some simply toss them in the trash. I'm saving mine for an art project worthy of a National Endowment for the Arts grant or for gotcha bragging rights when I become famous. Whatever works.
Of course there are variations on the "no." Some are mere form letters, untouched by human hands. Some are more emphatic than others. The " No way in hell," is rarely bluntly stated, but often implied in the short " Dear Author" form card. But just as quickly as such an austere standard brush -off can slam the door shut, a slightly warmer rebuff can open a crack in the window of literary fortune."Not now," especially if written in hand with something akin to, "But try us again," offers a glimmer of hope. A real personalized letter with actual suggestions and a " try again later," is nothing short of promising.
All writers---novices and pros alike--need encouragement. It may seem counter-intuitive to find such a boost from a rejection letter, but it's in there. Look at it this way: sending out your work is a positive step ( assuming it's ready to be seen by editors and agents). It is your foray into the literary lottery. And like love and other games of chance, the submission process is very much a numbers game. Frequently you have to endure a succession of nos to finally arrive at that one coveted yes. But that one sweet yes can swiftly eradicate your rejection dejection.
And you never know who will see your work along the way. An unsolicited call from an editor asking me to write an article or story or a festival director seeking to produce one of my plays can help me rebound from a recent batch of rejections. Just the jolt I need to re-energize my creative juices, refuel my resolve to keep going, fortify me for yet another round of submissions.
So every time you get a rejection letter, file it, count it, catalog it, toss it. Do what works for you. But make sure the ritual includes savoring each rejection as a symbol of your commitment and faith in your own work. And know you're not alone. There are millions of us collecting nos. Like that famous little train, if you think you can convert those nos into a yes, you can.
I think I can. I think I can. And I think you can, too.
Cheers and onward