A couple of days ago I called up the PhDs that rejected me to get some feedback on my submissions.
That was a hard conversation to have.
The graduate director for U-Hawaii was very nice and friendly. She read, as gently as she could, what the admissions committee said about my submission: "it lacks complexity."
I politely refrained from pointing out that the admissions committee's mom lacked complexity last night. I smiled and said, "I've written enough and submitted enough that I'm used to rejection. I'll live."
And it's true. I will live, and I'm used to rejection. But I still loathe it.
I've written and sent out more stories in the past year than I have ever in years before. Thus I get more rejections than ever before; about one a week. I'm on track for April with one last week from Realms of Fantasy and one the week before from Writers of the Future.
I hate it. Every rejection guts me for the day. Some markets, like F&SF, only seems to publish from their house rotation of authors, so I don't feel quite as rotten. Others, like the aforementioned Writers of the Future, are all the worse because I have gotten personal encouragement in the past and now find myself staring at a form letter.
The problem is not the rejections themselves. By the ratio of personal rejects to form, I'm getting closer to salesville.
The problem is not that my life sucks and this makes it suck more. I have a job I enjoy, a beautiful and fun wife, and one cool kid, soon to be two. I live in a paradise.
The problem is that I know I'm brilliant.
And I know I'm crap.
I love my own stories. Despite all the evidence as I rewrite, deep within my brain I am convinced that my first drafts put Mark Twain and Toni Morrison to shame.
Yet in another murky part of my brain, I am convinced that my stuff is pretentious, annoying and overblown, and nobody wants to come to my birthday party.
I know this will never go away. When I am outselling Stephen King (that's "when," not "if"), I will still punch the wall in frustration because some random blogger has posted about how my books are crap. My current gregariousness notwithstanding, I was once a shy self-conscious kid who got sick a lot from food allergies. I didn't have a lot of friends, and I wasn't good at basketball, and (fill in the nerdy childhood stereotype here; I had it).
I love telling stories. Unfortunately, I can't detach my storytelling brain from my social brain. Nothing would make me happier at conventions than to go around beaming and saying, "Look! My book comes out from New And Brilliant Press in two weeks!" Every rejection is a nasty poke right in the squishy gray matter of my positive brain, and a part of me says, "If I were published, I know people would finally like me!"
I doubt that my satisfaction over publication would be any more than it was when my sister Rebecca told me, referring to a currently trunked book, "I stayed up till three finishing it."
But nonetheless, rejection from a magazine feels just like getting turned down from a date.
How about all of you? What does rejection do to your squishy brain matter?