The art of rejection comes from seeing the truth and then adjusting to keep moving forward in your journey. In other words, the art of rejection comes when you take what is said as direction to get better instead of taking it as a personal insult.
Steven Laube shared a post today about rejection and the reality of rejection for those of us on a creative journey. Whether it’s an agent that says they don’t want to represent your work or a reader that says it wasn’t their cup of tea, rejection shows up when you dare to put a piece of your heart out there.
Laube reminds us that if it was easy, anyone could do it. And he’s right . . . this time.
Rejection for the Win
I was rejected by Steven Laube. When I first started out, I knew without a doubt that he had to be my agent. I followed the submission guidelines and got nothing. For the longest time, it was just crickets – and not just the ones that filled our woods and fields. These were real, doubt yourself to the fullest kind of crickets.
And then the letter arrived. Steven Laube explained that my manuscript had been misplaced and it was only a fluke that he happened upon it. I had query letter success . . . sort of. At least he read the letter, so that was a start.
See, I knew he was supposed to be my agent.
But the letter went on. Although he liked the story, he didn’t like that I had written it in the first person. Or maybe it was the present tense. Either way, he was not asking to represent the book.
I had been rejected.
Instead of putting the book away and giving up, I clung to the fact that he liked the story and dug into developing the story from a different perspective. After all, he didn’t reject ME, just the way I had crafted a few words.
I could fix the words or I could find someone else that appreciated the words the way they were. I chose to fix the words, because Steve Laube was supposed to be my agent.
By the way, you can’t just change I to she when you are shifting perspectives. It required a complete rewrite, which pushed me to dig deeper into the characters and the circumstances around them.
PRO TIP: If you rework a manuscript based on an agent’s suggestions, you might want to resubmit the manuscript to said agent or he’ll never know the impact he had (or have a chance to sign you).
Rejection made me better, so I guess he was right that time, too.
Rule #1 for the Art of Rejection – CHOOSE to learn from it.
Rejection from the Never Done It That Way Folks
Being a creative is almost as difficult as being green, or maybe they’re related. When you are doing your unique thing, people who aren’t doing that unique thing or even doing anything unique will take offense.
After my first novel was released, I received a review from one of those folks. She gave me 2 stars because “real people don’t talk that way.” That review destroyed my pretty star picture on the platform, mainly because I didn’t have very many reviews.
She rejected the notion that the way I had written was normal. I could have explained to her that I literally stole some of the conversations from a day out with some friends. I could have pointed out to her that I make it clear I’m not remotely normal.
I chose not to engage. Folks that don’t get it won’t get it no matter how hard you try to help them get it.
Opinions are a dime a dozen and that’s even a baker’s dozen. It’s not worth the investment to try to get people to change their minds. Besides, NOBODY wins an argument.
Rule #2 for the Art of Rejection – Let It Go.
Only See Rejection When It Appears
Sometimes what you see is not what you get. A rejection with notes or critique of any kind shows the agent had at least a passing interest in you or your words. In a world where the slush pile can be taller than the ceiling, that’s a pretty big deal.
But sometimes, we can’t see past the notion that they didn’t accept us.
In 1987, I sent in my first short story to a teen magazine. The sent back a photo-copied note that said I had to get a parent or guardian to sign off on the article. I was a minor.
What I READ in that note was that I hadn’t been accepted. They didn’t want to print my story and my writing wasn’t good enough.
The reality was they needed someone to sign off. Who knows. If I had chosen to see the words differently then, like I did when Steve Laube rejected my manuscript, I may have landed Steve Laube as my agent after all.
Rule #3 for the Art of Rejection – Don’t Make a Question a Rejection
Creatives walk a tough life. When we are vulnerable in what we share we make ourselves vulnerable to the attack of others. You can’t be open and guarded at the same time. If you are going to live your BIG DREAMS as a writer, or a painter, or a designer, or any other creative endeavor, then you have to master the art of rejection.