How To: Deal With Rejection

Well. I can’t think of any stories to start. I don’t want to even open the behemoth that is The Canterbury Tales: Part Deux. I’m still scared of opening the Glenn Beck book to get to reading it for my review. So, it looks like I’m going to churn something out for this here site. Again.

What’s been on my mind recently, no surprise, is the severe onset of depression/self-doubt that comes with a continuous stream of rejections. It’s rough, and, more depressingly, it’s part of the glorious package of writing (along with anti-social tendencies, reading in social settings when it’s not appropriate and, at least once in your life, alcohol poisoning). But, as I’ve just read in Ender’s Game, humanity has evolved to survive. And part of surviving is coping. And because I’m human, and thus have all of the traits that lead me to not want to off myself every time I see another form rejection e-mail, I have a growing number of coping mechanisms. Further, I’m going to share them with you.

It should be noted that these coping mechanisms might just work with anything else that constitutes mild failure, but I wouldn’t know. Like Charlie Sheen, I have Adonis DNA and tiger blood, and, in everything apart from writing, well, WINNING.

Which brings us to…

Method 1: Delusions of Grandeur

Without even meaning to, I’ve demonstrated the first, and easiest to pull off, coping mechanism. Make no mistake, people will look down on you at first for going around shouting that you’re a Jedi, the Greatest, or on par with God in terms of awesomeness (in the strictest definition of the word, that is), but what do they know? WINNING.

See, this is a supremely easy method because all it involves is taking the event over which you’re glum and then reversing it.

Let’s take a form rejection letter sent by the editor of a magazine stating that, thank you for your interest, but they couldn’t find a place for your work in their current issue:

Who the hell do they think they are, sending you such a cold, emotionless letter? (I’m one to talk. In my tenure as a fiction editor at a literary magazine, my form rejections were called “ridiculously saccharine.”)

You know better, of course. You’re not some schmuck sending in a story about your D&D Dwarf Warrior from Dun Lothan in the hills of Loch Loria, you’re Dave Lawson, fantasy auteur. How dare these plebeians not recognize your brilliant prose for what it is: not an overly-ornate waste of time (as your writing group called it), but a sublime – and subtle – commentary on the state of fantasy fiction.

Oh yes, one day, as you sit atop a throne of escort girls paid for by royalty sales of the Dun Lothan saga, they shall rue. Oh, they shall rue.

See? That was so easy I bounced around from boingboing to wired to twitter to facebook and then back again before finishing it. I didn’t even have to pay attention, and the self-aggrandizing delirium just poured forth. It was so easy I wrote it before my coffee kicked in. Know what? I’ll be generous and let you use that thing, free of charge. All you have to do is fill in the bits about dwarves with your characters. If you can’t do that, then you don’t even deserve to be an author.

And trust me, I know: I’ve been published. (And had a story potentially stolen from me, which I believe is even more of a signal that I’m good. Once again: Self-delusion.)

Method 2: The Booze

This should be a no-brainer. The not-quite-a-joke is that writers drink like fish for some indiscernible reason. The “proof” is that Stephen King was an alcoholic for a long time and, more importantly, Hemingway was a booze hound. Oh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, too. Thus, if you want to be any good at writing, you must hate yourself enough to put down a bottle of whiskey/gin/vodka a night, wake up the next morning, stare loathingly at the keyboard/typewriter/pen and paper and go at the bottle again. [NOTE: After St. Patrick’s Day 2011, it should be noted that I drank – roughly – three gallons of Guinness and half a litre of Jameson. So yeah, I’m a writer.]

In my opinion: Why not use this stereotype to your advantage. Play a drinking game. Every time you work more than three hours on a story, every time you put it through seven damn drafts until you can’t look at it without wanting to shred it into tiny pieces, and then you send it to some unheard-of magazine that probably publishes stories by goddamn twelve year olds, you wait. You wait with bottle in hand. And then, when the inevitable rejection comes, you drink like a goddamn fish, because that’s a shitload of time you’re not getting back.

Then, when someone asks you if maybe you should stop, you tell them that you’re in the creative process. Working yourself up to submit the story to another magazine, or just hit “Delete” and watch that amount of time wipe itself off of the hard drive of your computer. Gone forever. And then you look at them, with a suitable amount of deadness and dismay in your eyes and say, “It’s how I get the Muse on my side.” Then you take a drink. “Pity.”

After that, they’ll either leave you to your own devices or force you into rehab. It really depends on whether or not you know a lot of Christians; if you do, it’ll be the second one, and I apologize for putting you in this situation. If it’s the first one, then your next step is simple: You take a deep breath, try not to vomit from the mixture of cold air and the pool of alcohol bubbling in your stomach, and then you start again.

But before you do, you print out a copy of that rejection letter and you nail it into the wall. That’s your voodoo doll of the editor and, with each one that joins it in that nail, every acceptance letter will send them a spike of pain that will crawl down their spine and they shall shout, as one, “Alas! We did not accept him!”

Which brings me to…

Method 3: Bitterness

After about ten rejections (twenty if they’re all form rejections), you’ll start either rotting away from alcohol poisoning or seeing the world through jaded eyes.

A scenario: You’ve just received yet another rejection. You crawl up to the roof of your home and gaze out upon the sea of humanity stretching out from underneath you. It is a cool night, the breeze is just enough to make you notice it, and, if you were a happy, normal person with the capability to shun all of the horribleness in the world in favor of watching Jersey Fucking Shore, then you’d think about how lovely it is.

But you can’t think about that.

All you can think about is how a huge number of people down there are reading fucking Twilight and thinking it’s the best thing ever.

All you can think about is how Congress is complaining about NPR leeching money off of the public when launching a single Tomahawk missile costs enough money to fund NPR for five fucking years. And yet – yet – no one cares.

All you can think about is the absurd bills going through state senates that would allow people to murder doctors at abortion clinics and how your country is further turning into bizarro world.

All you can think about is that FUCKING rejection letter in your hand.

And, right then, you curse the world for all of its vainglory and ignorance and, like Rorshach, realize that when they come asking you for help you’ll look down and whisper, “No.”

Method 4: Realize That It’s Part of The Game

Or, perhaps you’re a bit more stable than the personality types listed above. This, by the way, is probably the healthiest way to deal with rejection, which, naturally, means it’s the least exploitable in terms of humor.

If I had to come up with a bullshit statistic off the top of my head, then I’d have to say that the rejection – acceptance ratio is, roughly, 99:1 starting out. It’s a long march to get your name out there enough to garner some sort of respect. It’s grueling and no one can tell you how long it’ll take you to get to that point. And, in my opinion, the worst part about it is that a good portion of the game has to deal with how lucky you are.

If you’re anything like me, then you’re not that lucky at all. Which means that you have a long slog through obscurity (or where I currently am: yearning for obscurity).

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