Looking Forward to Rejection
There are some amazing writing contests on Twitter. Revpit, PitMad, DVPit, Pitchapalooza, SFFPit, and WriteMentor are just a handful, though there are dozens more for different genres and age groups. I’ve participated in many of them, and I’ve never won. In fact, I’ve only ever gotten one request- most of them left me anxiously hoping for something that would never come.
In every contest, the editors/mentors/agents always say the same thing: Not being chosen is not a rejection. I understand why they say it, and even how, logically, it’s true. But it feels like rejection. Knowing the astronomical odds doesn’t help. Even knowing that my story was loved by others doesn’t stop the disappointment. Suddenly I’m back in fourth grade, not being picked for the football team even though I know I’m good enough.
Here’s the thing about rejection- there’s no magical cure-all phrase that makes the hurt go away. People will tell you to take a step back, try to look at it without emotion, and turn it into a learning experience. And you absolutely should. But I’ve never been able to take my emotions out of things, no matter how hard I tried.
So I stopped trying. Instead I let the rejection hurt, because hurt isn’t evil. There is a lesson in every heartbreak, and those lessons are absolutely necessary to who we are as people and as writers. I put my characters through a lot of heartache, and never hesitate to make them face their failures. Those painful scenes have to happen to prepare them for the ending. If I dropped my characters from page one directly into the last chapter, they would break- immediately and even more painfully than anything I’d put them through before.
As writers, we know this. We know it takes conflict and struggle to make a good story. So I let it happen- and, after the hurt began to fade a little, I even started looking forward to it. Rejection means you’re progressing. It means you’re building up the strength you need for a bigger battle, or the compassion you need to help another along the same path. It means you’re going through the adversity that will one day inspire someone else.
Rejection is painful, but you can use pain. Let it fuel you, let it strengthen you, and let it keep you grounded. And then, after you’ve caught your breath, face the next one with a smile on your face.