Staple Your Rejections To Your Chest And Wade Into Battle With Them As Your Armor
As you may know, I’ve received now a — *checks e-mail* — not insubstantial pile of rejections regarding my novel, Blackbirds. It’s still out with a couple-few publishers, but for the most part, a goodly number of them have passed on the project, and when they passed they tossed a note or three to my agent, and she tossed those notes to me.
They were fairly good rejections, if you can say such a thing. A bad rejection would of course be, “This goofy fuckwad is literary poison; his vile prose caused me to void my bowels all over the neighbor’s cat. And my neighbors are litigious.”
These rejections were mixed, but generally positive — they like my voice, like my writing, even like the book (?!), want to see my future work, but this book might not be “for them.”
I mean, it wasn’t okay at first. At first, I kind of wanted to drown myself in a dirty bucket.
And then jump in front of a garbage truck.
And finish it off with an Everything bagel, where “Everything” is just short-hand for “bird flu.”
I got over it, though.
I mean, here’s the thing. When it comes to rejections, you can pretty much go one of two ways.
The one way is abject despair. You take the rejection as a sign from the gods that you’re pretty much an asshole — a lesson that the world would be better off with you as a janitor, a speed-bump, a heroin mule.
The other way is you pick yourself up out of the dust, pull the arrow of your chest (yes, this will be painful, try not to cry about it), stuff some clods of clay into the wound, and run headlong back into battle.
Remember: you fail until you succeed. That’s how life is. Life is a game of inches — progress gained in sometimes agonizing increments. Sure, sometimes you make a big leap forward or slide a little backward, but fuck it, what else are you going to do? Tuesday didn’t go well; are you going to stab yourself in the temple with an icepick just so you don’t have to see Wednesday?
Writing sometimes feels like a miserable, masochistic career choice, but it also has dizzying highs that really can’t be ignored. Plus, you do it because you can’t do anything else. Frankly, I’ve painted my talentless self into a corner over here: I have one talent, and one talent only: juggling infants writing.
What the hell else am I going to do?
You come out the other side of rejection and, if you’re the real deal, I think it starts to go beyond despair and it moves toward happy, ardent rage — a kind of wide-eyed tooth-baring zeal. Suddenly, you come to realize that these rejections aren’t badges of shame, but rather, motherfucking battle scars. It’s some Viking shit. Your rejections are proof that you’re not just talking the talk, but you’re walking the walk.
Hell, you’re crawling through trenches.
You’re stabbing guys in the neck with your pen.
With your mighty manuscript you’re batting screeching Valkyries into the mud and smashing their heads with your laptop.
You know what makes a real writer? Rejections, that’s what. That’s what separates the talkers from the doers — guys who staple rejections to their chest and wade into the fray with those very same rejections as their armor, well, they’re the ones fighting the battles to win the war. Everybody else is just pretending.
So, that’s the realization you need to come to with rejections.
Badges of honor.
Proof that you’re doing shit.
Yes, you need to learn from rejection. You just keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, well, that’s textbook crazy. Or dictionary stupid.
But you learn.
You move forward.
You stab, boot, kick, and bellow your barbaric yawp.
That’s what I’m going to do.
Right after I finish eating this bird flu bagel.