Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rejection Dejection Injection Correction

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!"

It's stupid.

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?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I don't get rejected so I don't know what you are talking about. It might possibly be that I don't try either.
    Maybe that's it, stop trying and you don't have to worry about rejection.

  3. Jack only likes Brian right now, so, I feel your pain.

  4. You'd think that as an editor, I would understand that rejections are not about my own faults as a person and a writer but about the editor's taste, mood on a particular day, a lack of consensus, lack of time, the fact that it really (truly) just doesn't fit the zine, and so on ... but I don't. It sucks. I throw tantrums. I bemoan the fact that the world is yet again deprived of my genius.

    We're all masochists, and this is the life we signed up for, for better or worse. But it does make for great community-building, and that's something good. Nothing like a little bitching to bring people together. :)

  5. I'm not very self aware when it comes to my emotions, so after something particularly crushing, when I think I'm doing just fine, suddenly I'll blow up in frustration at something really stupid, then in trying to figure out what happened I'll realize what the problem is, and then I'll start to deal with it.

    It's not very healthy.

  6. I'm rooting for you, Spencer! It's just a matter of time....

    Some rejections bounce right off me, and others smart - I think it might have to do with how much of a chance I thought I had. I'm finding they're bouncing off a bit easier these days, so I'm crossing fingers that trend will continue. :)

  7. Thanks for the comments, folks! I think it's fair to say that this post was not rejected.

    Jess, Adia does that all the time to me. I think she has to have either Mommy or Daddy on her blacklist, or she will forget she has the blacklist.

    Brian, I don't think I have ever seen that side of you. In my mind you are a Buddhalike model of calm who currently watches sports a lot.

    Eden, I think it's a crime that the world is deprived of your genius, but at least we can bitch together. I just hope you don't drown at work prematurely, because you need to conquer the world, and because "we found the victim in a sea of floating vibrators" sounds weird.

    I'm not sure why I thought of that. Perhaps it had something to do with that dream. Your dream, not mine. Mine had a turkey and some of the green stuff from Nickelodean shows in the 80s.

    Amy, I am rooting for you. Let our roots grow together!

  8. Rejection doesn't actually bother me, with the exception of times when I'm SURE they're going to want it. (That doesn't happen often, though.) But usually I can be pretty zen about the fact they didn't want it--like Eden was pointing out, I am aware of and believe in all of that "not the right time/doesn't fit into the lineup/woke up on the weird side of the bed this morning" stuff.

    I'm not gloating--I'm hoping it rubs off on you. :D

  9. I once heard George R.R. Martin say, "I got my first few rejections and it didn't kill me."

    I was like, "It kind of did kill me at first."

    Slushing has given me a better perspective, but for aforementioned maladjusted emotional reasons, I still hate it.

  10. .

    The only rejections that bother me anymore are those I get after they already said yes.

    Incidentally, what would you say to letting me take a shot at rejecting you?

  11. I decided that when I get rejected for any reason, whoever rejected me just thought I was too awesome and got intimidated or threatened.

    It pretty much works.

  12. The world can't handle this much Rebecca. You've got to take periodic breaks on Mars.

    Theric, I'll try to find something. Thanks for the heads-up.