Today is one of those days that Mother Nature is being cruelly deceptive. The sun is streaming through the windows and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Your mind and body are tricked into believing that it is going to be a beautifully warm day. You optimistically walk outside in just a lite sweater and are smacked in the face by freezing temperatures and unrelenting winds. Well, little missy, that wasn’t nice of you. You walk back inside, bundle up, and try it again.
I find this metaphor appropriate for today. After taking a short sabbatical from writing for a much-unneeded pity party, I am back to submitting. My latest piece, a personal essay, was just sent off to Outlook Springs. A fairly new online and in print literary magazine. My hope is that due to it being a new publication I stand a better chance of success. Receiving an email from a publication is much like the weather today. I am always excited and anticipating a raving acceptance letter. Then I open it and it’s a kindly worded rejection. They all are a variant of “we enjoyed reading your work, but we feel it isn’t a good fit for us at this time.” Well publication, that wasn’t very nice of you. If you enjoyed reading it, perhaps other people would too.
As of twenty minutes ago, I have submitted to nine publications and have received six rejections. I am still holding out hope for the other three. I know rejection is all part of the process. I have even read that you aren’t a true writer until you receive your first rejection. If that is true, I am officially a real writer. I have never received negative feedback for my writing. Okay, once in a college class, but the professor admittedly based his critiques on his personal opinions and if he didn’t care for the genre you were never going to hear good things from him. So with the exception of that pompous ass, my writing has always been met with glowing reviews. Hey. It’s not conceited when it’s true. For that reason, I did not take being rejected well at all. At first, I was disappointed, then angry, then after the sixth one, I was over it. I closed my email and decided I was just going to go back to writing in my journal.
Yep. I did the thing I have lectured others about not doing. I allowed someone’s opinion of my work to affect how I felt about my work. I decided I wasn’t cut out for that type of writing and I was just going to go back to inching my way through the screenplay I have been working on for the past year. I said as much to my husband and he conveniently had a Facebook post that day about a handwritten letter that one of Kevin Smith’s girlfriend’s mother had given him telling him that he would never be a writer. He then Googled Kevin Smith and went through his over 200 credits. A young man that was told he would never be a writer is now making millions of dollars in the industry.
I was then reminded of Dr. Seuss who was rejected 27 times before he was published. James Patterson was rejected 33 times. No studio wanted to produce Star Wars so George Lucas used his own money and produced it himself. I could go on and on and on, but I thought I would stick with a few that most people are familiar with. I have reminded myself of these things over and over throughout the years anytime I began to doubt myself. However, being rejected in theory is much easier than the reality of it. What I realize now though it that those rejections were truly just a blow to my ego. When you have spent most of your life being told you are great at something and then being turned away repeatedly, it’s difficult to not begin to second guess yourself.
What I have realized is that there isn’t anything wrong with my writing. I don’t need to change my writing at all. I simply need to change the publications I am pitching to. If The Doors had sent a demo tape to a country music label, of course, they would have been rejected. That certainly doesn’t mean that they needed to change their music or their music wasn’t great. They just would have been knocking on the wrong doors. That is what I love so much about the internet, is that with one simple Google search I am automatically provided with the links to thousands of other doors to knock on.
We as artists all have an important decision to make and it is a decision that should be made early on. Are you willing to change your work and creative vision for a quick sell or are you willing to face rejection, perhaps multiple rejections to keep your integrity and the integrity of your work intact? There is no right or wrong answer, you just need to decide how willing you are to hold out until you find that one right person that shares your vision. Are you tough enough to realize that a rejection doesn’t mean the work isn’t right, it just isn’t right for them? Would you be okay with your work being out in the world knowing that it isn’t what you wanted it to be? Either decision you ultimately make, I offer you one piece of advice I hope you take: if ever you do decide to change your work, keep a copy of the original. You are going to want it someday.