We’ve all experienced rejection. Relationships and jobs seem to be the ones most people experience on a regular basis.
I’ve been rejected more often than I’ve been the rejector when it comes to relationships. I’m not saying that to wallow; I’m just stating a fact. I’m more likely to stick things out than to run away, an odd combination of optimism and fear of the unknown. It hurts to be rejected. We ask ourselves difficult questions after a relationship ends, like: “Why wasn’t I good enough?” “What does he(she) have that I didn’t?” “What did I do wrong?” Sometimes those questions don’t ever get answered.
Job rejections are in the double-digits at this point in my life. Some came without an interview, and some came after an interview. The ones that came after an interview hurt the worst, especially the jobs I really wanted and know I would have been good at. There was one I applied for twice. The first time, I was interviewed and didn’t quite make the cut out of three people. I felt so defeated. The next time the job came open, I tried again before the search was changed to something else. By the time it came around again, I had given up.
Artists are privileged to get to experience it on a whole new level. The rejection of our voice, our work, the deepest expressions of ourselves. Musicians, visual artists, writers—I think it stings no matter what when we share something with the world and get criticism. Everyone is entitled to their own tastes and opinions. I try to find something positive to say about other artists’ work when they share it with me, even if it’s to say that it isn’t my usual genre and then point out something I liked about it. I try not to leave bad reviews on books if the author is still living. I probably rate books higher than I do other works of art because I know how difficult it is to write a novel.
When you also suffer from anxiety, fear of rejection takes on a whole new level. I’ve been thinking about participating in an open mic night at a local bookstore for a while now. I’ve almost gathered up the nerve twice now. The first time I had convinced myself to go, I had to leave town suddenly because my mother needed my help. The second time, I had already used up all my courage earlier in the day when I participated in an alumni authors event at the university where I work and obtained my degrees.
Can you see the tension in my smile as I spoke with one of the attendees? I know I will have to do more things like that to help with my writing career, but I am not 100% comfortable trying to sell myself in person. I communicate much better with pen and paper or by typing on my computer.
So, I’ve chickened out twice about going to open mic night. I handled two book signings, one author’s event, and one teen-writing chat at the Dardanelle Library with as much grace as I could muster. I’ve been challenged to record myself reading one of my poems and post it on this blog as a way to slowly work my way up to actually performing it in front of a live audience. So here goes nothing.
Thank you for reading, watching and listening. If you’d like to read the poem, it’s here.
And now for the real rejection. My novel, Jordan’s Sister, has received its first rejection from one of the two small-press publishing companies that solicited it. The editors at company #1 don’t feel that it is quite ready for publication based on the three sample chapters they’ve read. It doesn’t matter which company it was, as I will never call them out. There’s no bitterness here. (Not even when I kindly pointed out a blatant typo in their auto-response email when I replied back, thanking them for their time.) The rejection actually makes me feel like a real author. It’s almost like a badge of honor amongst us writers. All the greats usually have countless rejection letters under their belts before they make it big. I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed, but I am also proud of taking a chance. I am still waiting to hear back from the other company. Company #2 possible responses: rejection or request full manuscript. If the full manuscript is requested, then I enter the waiting-game again to see if they: reject or offer to publish.
So what happens then? If they want it, I have to make sure I maintain as much artistic control of my work as possible. I’m not one to argue over every possible word choice, but if their editing suggestions take away from the overall theme, story, or character development, I will have a tough decision to make which might include walking away.
If they don’t want it, it’s another badge of honor in my inbox I suppose. Then, I will decide what I want to do next: pursue other small-press publishing companies, seek agent representation, or self-publish. There’s something inherently sexy about choosing to remain an indie author. It means complete artistic control, but also means I have to continue to market my own work. If I do choose to remain independent, I have more experience this time than I did with Caroline’s Lighthouse.
While I am extremely proud of the journey it took to get it to publication, I made the mistake of taking everything the publishing company’s editors suggested to heart instead of trusting myself on a few things—things I will change back if I republish it with a different company. It was also costly, which I can’t afford to do again. If I choose to self-publish again, I will use Amazon’s CreateSpace services where there are no up-front fees.
Even with the risk of rejection, if I reach one person with my writing and change their viewpoint or add to their enjoyment for the day, that’s enough for me. A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone I work with, and it made my day.
She wrote: I read your book “Caroline’s Lighthouse” and it was sooo good! I could not put it down. I hope you write more!
So maybe I already know the answer to the possible rejection of the next publishing company: Keep trying, because someone out there will enjoy what I have to say.
-Brandi Easterling Collins