Fuck Your Pre-Rejection, Penmonkey

Title says it all.

Fuck your pre-rejection.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? See if you’ve ever done this:

You wrote something. Maybe you edited it. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you didn’t even finish it. Then, you concoct a series of reasons inside your head why nobody will give a hot wet fuck about it. Nobody will wanna read it. Nobody will wanna buy it. You’ve got your reasons — maybe one reason, maybe a whole catalog full of them. And frankly? They all sound good. This isn’t the one, you tell yourself. It’s not yet right. And soon it becomes smart because, hey, you don’t want that thing you wrote out there. This is a sound business decision. This is a practical creative decision. Not everything you write is going to be aces. And so you open a drawer and you chuck this manuscript into it. It lands on top of five, ten, twenty others. A cloud of dust kicks up like an allergenic mushroom cloud — poof. And then you close the drawer.

That is pre-rejection.

You have killed the thing you created because you imagine its inevitable rejection.

It’s the same way you don’t ask that guy out because you already know how he’ll say no, and it’ll be embarrassing, and jeez even if you did date, he’d probably be a jerk, and even if he wasn’t a jerk, the marriage you’d eventually have would suck, and the kids would be shitheads, and it’d end in divorce and misery and death.

Don’t take that job — you’ll only get fired.

Don’t move to a new house — probably be haunted.

Don’t step outside — ha ha ha, you’ll probably just fucking die. (And so many ways to die! Flu ebola measles stabbing shooting planking rabid bears assassin bugs arsenic in the water shanked by a free range Gary Busey, and so on, and so forth.)

The glass isn’t half-empty or half-full — it’s just full of scalding hot cat urine! YUM.

Except, yeah, no.

Pre-rejection is bullshit.

It’s a control thing, a power trip, a grotesquely pessimistic fantasy. I know, you’re saying, uhh, it’s not a fantasy, weirdo — except, au contraire, panda bear, it is a fantasy. It’s much easier to reject ourselves than it is to weather the crotch-kicks delivered by someone else. You could far easier slide a knife across your open palm than let someone else do it — it’s so much better when we control the pain that’s sure to come. It’s comforting, easy, lazy even to just get that rejection out of the way now rather than later.

Fuck that static.

The pain isn’t sure to come.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

But if you’re going to do this thing, you need to get hard to it. You need to be not just ready for rejection — you need to be willing to embrace rejection. Not your own — but proper rejection. Rejection you don’t control. You need those calluses and scars. Rejection is always a part of who we are and what we do, and that’s not just in writing. That’s in life. What, you think you’ll get every job? Every date? Every bit of approval from every corner of your life? Life isn’t just a series of hand-jobs and clit-tickles, folks. You will be rejected. It is part of what we do. It is proof that you are doing what you love. It is evidence of the fight you contain within you.

You must defeat the urge to pre-reject.

I’m not saying everything you write is going to be perfect. Far from it. But rejection is clarifying. And it feels awful at first — until it feels awesome. Awesome because this is what successful people go through. Writers who get published are writers who have collected ten rejections (or more, many more) for every one acceptance. Cherish your rejections. Hell, collect ‘em. Staple-gun them to your chest like merit badges for a particularly psychopathic branch of the Scouts. Certainly this also doesn’t mean you should send out any old piece of laundry you have hanging around in the hopes some drunken editor will buy it accidentally. But the signs of pre-rejection don’t linger at just one story left unsent. It’s when those start to pile up. It’s when you go beyond feeling that this one isn’t right and start crafting a morbid, macabre fantasy about all the terrible things that’ll happen when you send this manuscript and all the others out.

How do you defeat it?

Practice, for one. Stop thinking so much. Stop worrying. Start submitting. Editors need material. Agents need material. Readers need stories to read.

Let other people read the work. Let them send it out, if you must.

Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Control what you can — and no, that doesn’t mean to pre-reject, it just means, write the best story, and find your feet with writing.

You didn’t get published, you didn’t win the award, you got a bad review.

Repeat after me:

That’s all right. I can try againI can get better.

But you have to give yourself the chance to try again.

You don’t get better by just chucking manuscripts in a drawer.

You need the agitation.

You need that fear, that uncertainty, that courage.

You need input from other human beings. Which means:

Fuck your pre-rejection.

You want to get rejected? Do it the old-fashioned way.

Let someone else reject you. Take your shot. Worst you can do is fail. And failure fucking rocks.

Sure, maybe you’ll get rejected. But maybe, just maybe, the opposite will happen.

How else do stories reach their audiences, you think?

82 comments

  • This is super relevant to me right now. I finished the first draft of a series of stories, and coming back to revise them, I found myself thinking “who am I writing this for? who is my audience? why would anyone want to read every story? why would anyone want to ready any of the stories? Is this the right project? Did I waste my time? Can I even write? What if this is just terrible? …”

    It’s given me a lot of stress, and with other life stress adding to it, my productivity has been crippled the last week or so. I think I’m about ready to start moving forward. Post like these definitely help :)

  • Thank you Thank You!! this happens to me, especially when I can not seem to get anyone interested in reading and giving me input. This gave me a wake up call To think I quit writing because I didn’t have the courage to overcome my fear.. One of the best things you have ever written!! THANKS!

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