So I got my first rejection Tuesday morning. It came at around midnight Chicago time, for some reason. Despite knowing the odds and understanding the nature of the business and the overwhelming depth of competition, and knowing that I’d probably be rejected at first, I was still mildly surprised at my reaction to the form rejection email:
Seriously. I was almost glad I got it; it beats the limbo of not hearing anything, of wondering if you screwed up so royally it was all they could do to hit the delete button before any more damage was done, like Captain Kirk struggling to pull the warp drive lever before the ship explodes (“Must…delete…query!”). Or something like that. Logically, every rejection is a setback, one more magnetically sealed security door keeping me separated from my goals. Logically, I should try to glean any drops of info from the form rejection that help me understand what went wrong.
But really, I didn’t feel anywhere near the emotional reaction I thought I might. I didn’t drop to the ground in my Nancy Kerrigan impersonation (Why?! WWhhhyyy!?). I’ll probably get two more in the next week or two I can add to the collection, though I’m not dreading it. Which of course begs Nancy’s question.
Not “Why did I get rejected?” but “Why don’t I seem to care?” I can’t really answer that. It’s not because I have time, that’s for sure. I’m not ancient, but I am a month from forty. I don’t have the luxury to query a project for two or three years, give up, and move on to the next, and hope I can be published “by the time I’m thirty”. Thirty was ten years ago. I don’t want to just publish a book, I want to build a career, a body of work that I can leave behind as marker of my time here.
Maybe it’s because I’m no stranger to rejection. Don’t worry, I won’t hop on the psychiatrist’s couch here, but the realty is, I’ve had a lot worse. Using a 300-word cold-call to convince an overworked agent that my MS out of thousands is the one she should commit her time and reputation to? We’re set up for failure. Rejection is expected. We don’t cry when our lottery ticket’s a bust; we don’t rend our clothing when we’re not the thirtieth caller for concert ticket giveaways. For every lucky (and deserving) duck who gets his book published, there are probably dozens of great novelists whose work will never be known.
From a career standpoint, every rejection sucks. From a personal standpoint, it really doesn’t bother me. Maybe that’ll change after a hundred rejections, or even ten. But for now, I’m rolling with it. This is what we chose to do. And we chose it because we love to write.
And no one can ever take that from us.