I was moved to write this blog when a fellow graduate of a MFA Creative Nonfiction program wrote the following: “How much rejection can one take? or rather should take? I’ve been getting rejected from every single query, pitch, essay publication, poetry, translation, fellowship, residency and employment I’ve applied to since October.” Why would someone spend time and money to prepare themselves for shit-hole rejection, you’re probably thinking?
I decided to google a bit, looking for some answers beyond my own experiences. I must say, rejection on google is not the same as feeling it in your gut and a tinge of vomit in your mouth. A more academic definition is the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, etc… No that doesn’t do much either. Further exploration revealed a study in Psychology Today. Physical and emotional pain share the same pathway to the brain. Studies found that if you take a couple of acetaminophen (Tylenol) immediately following the rejection you will experience a reduction in the emotional pain. Now I know why writers tend to drink wine, a six pack, or straight from a bottle of hard stuff. But if you drink too much, your pain is joined by physical and an out-of-your mind experience. And that’s something that I don’t repeat too often.
In fact, I remember an episode of out-of-mind emotional meltdown when I was in high school. There was a girl that I wanted to date but she wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m reluctant to admit that I even prayed to God that she would become my steady girlfriend. Well, God didn’t come through. Come to think of it, perhaps he did. Decades later I saw that same girl. I realized that it was good that she didn’t become my steady girlfriend. Back to my story. Her final rejection was followed by a night on the town with a couple of my friends. We got stone-dead drunk and my friends dumped me on the steps of my front porch. Not a pleasant memory.
Every writer, except for famous and lucky people, has experienced different degrees of rejection. I’ve experienced rejection that comes rolling in like a dark cloud and puts me into a fetal position. As bad as it sounds, I began writing at a later age and was successfully employed in my chosen profession. I wasn’t dependent upon writing income to survive. Having said that, it still hurts like hell to be rejected.
So, what do we do about rejection? For me, writing is more about the journey than the publishing aspect. The journey of writing a book trumps most things. I write a sentence, a phrase, a chapter and go through the multiple drafts. A few days later I read it again, followed by a final draft. Sometimes I experience what I call a “writer’s rush,” that’s better than any joint I’ve smoked. It can be outstanding. Each piece of writing has made me smarter, a better writer, and broadened my spiritual growth. That’s why I write.