It's not about you, it's about them

How Not To Deal With Rejection

As one door opens for me another has shut. Slammed shut with a resounding bang and my toe in it. Ouch.

Well, that’s how it felt to me at first. Let me explain. Just as my blog is taking off and I’m starting to feel more hopeful about achieving my blogging goals, other areas of my writing have been dissed, trashed and trodden underfoot.

For the past couple of months I’ve been paying a literary mentor in the UK to assess my manuscripts. I have two manuscripts: a completed 70,000 word mainstream fiction and an embryonic travel memoir.

Sadly, the manuscript mentoring and assessment was a painful experience during which time I nodded, smiled, tried to look thoughtful and said:

“I know what you mean,” while biting back tears and wondering if a root canal is this painful.

Then, after licking my wounds I’d email the mentor saying things like:

“How lovely to chat with you on Skype this morning. I just wanted to put you in touch with so and so who is also very important in the publishing world and lives close to you in Hampshire. All the best!”

What I was actually thinking was more along these lines.

“I wanted a writer’s mentor, not a writer’s torturer. You wicked, pipe-smoking, hirsute, pot-bellied, bandy-legged troll. I wish I’d never shown you my writing. Isn’t your job to encourage me in my work, not to trash my dreams and make a mockery of two years of my life?

Does it make you feel better to call my writing “flat” an obvious synonym for boring, and help make up for the low self-esteem you’re suffering due to your bean-sized penis?”

Well, you get the idea. I was upset and in need of an outlet for that emotion.

But I’m of English stock. We keep a stiff upper lip. We bottle up our emotions until they explode one day leaving our psyche’s scattered willy nilly around the garden.

So I didn’t mention any of this to anyone. It’s a matter of pride too. For a year I’ve been telling people I’m writing a book.

“Nothing will come of it,” I said. But now, when they ask about it, I’ll have to tell them it sucked.

I am deflated. My balloon has been popped and I lie on the floor discarded, useless. My writing party is well and truly over.

Other people have read my manuscripts. Strangely they’ve been much more flattering and said they’d like to read more. They came up with plenty of constructive criticism and ideas of improvements in a way that left me keen to keep working on it.

But they were my friends. This is a professional. Maybe he’s being cruel to be kind.

I don’t need it though.

Still, all is not lost. Tonight I will be fashioning a doll out of playdough and adorning it with the grey hair that clung to my returned manuscript. I’ve had some prior success in the voodoo doll area. So much so that I vowed never to indulge in it again.

But I think this is a good reason to get back into it. A fine and worthy one. All I have to do now is work out where to put the pin.

Don’t worry folks, I’m not giving up. For more tips read How to Bounce Back From Rejection.

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Photo credit: Memorial of Russian physicist, Dr. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov by D B King.

Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori December 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Annabel. Your stiff upper lip will get you where you need to be; hang in there!

I can really relate to your struggles. Take a break from it – live life and come back in 2010 with your plan. Well, actually, you’ll be writing another post about it, so I’ll be staying tuned!

And, hey, I’ll skype with you and make you laugh to help get you through. :)

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Steve December 18, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I find that when I receive a rejection letter, or an editor’s remarks that are less than complimentary, a dollop of whiskey helps me to put things in perspective. I try to do this while heating the needles for the doll. I makes them that much better!

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Jared-Brandentity December 18, 2009 at 1:35 pm

“When you lead with purpose, drive with passion, clearly define your outcome, and deflect challenges, manifestation of your vision is the only possible result.”

You are obviously putting yourself out there for rejection, but with that being said, growth occurs outside the comfort zone and this process will enable you to grow in a way that you never deemed possible. Keep on keeping on Annabel and make sure to NEVER stop believing in yourself. If you have a message to share, then share it, hold nothing back, and put the pen to the paper and START WRITING!!!!!!

I know you can do this… :)

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Gordie December 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Silvester Stallone was so dejected when trying to find directors who liked his script that he resorted to acting in a porno. to make ends meet and would cry himself to sleep every night.

I think you’re handling rejection better than he did. :)

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Annabel Candy December 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Thanks so much for commenting everyone. Writing this blog and getting feedback from my readers is a key motivator for me these days! I really appreciate your support and am going to keep writing here come what may.

Lori – Well, I am taking a break but still writing if you know what I mean. Definitely not planning to miss any blog posts.

Steve – Sounds like a fun night in! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s experienced this and the ugly need for revenge! It’s so childish but those fantasies are great:)

Jared – I am putting myself out for rejection. It’s true. Now you put it like that being rejected is better than not having tried.

Gordie – Poor old Sly. He does have a sad look in his down-turned eyes. All that crying I suppose. Hope he’s happy now although he hasn’t been that lucky in love as far as I know…

I’m not sure that I could get a part in a porno anyway so I’ll just have to stick with writing:)

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Cate December 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm

… and don’t ever forget that every rejection takes you one step closer to success. Eddison worked on thousands of light bulbs before the successful design. His comment was not that he had failed but that he had successfully found ten thousand ways that didn’t work! :-)
Cate

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Dave Doolin December 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm

The main paper from my MS paper in civil engineering came back from the reviewer with “We don’t use Eq. 1.”

Geez.

I never did publish in that journal.

One of the reviews coming back from the second journal was bad. I mean it was subjectively bad. As in, the reviewer did not understand the science or the math.

So I slaughtered that reviewer. Just tore up every one of the “required” revisions. It was a snotty review, and my rebuttal was crushing.

(Just on the off chance… He was requiring me to impose 3 boundary conditions on a 2d order ODE. Uh, no.)

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Dave Doolin December 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Errata ( a fancy word meaning I screwed up) for previous comment:

1. MS Thesis
2. Objectively bad, not subjectively bad.

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Annabel Candy December 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Cate – Sounds as if having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at your failures is crucial for success too. Lightbulb moment…

Dave – You’ve blinded me with science. I take it you got the thesis and there was a happy ending. I know we’re not supposed to take criticism personally but sometimes it is more about people than their work.

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Brad Shorr December 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Annabel, Getting dejected in the face of rejection does show that you are passionate about your work. That’s the best attitude you can have and the only way to succeed over the long haul. BTW, If your manuscripts read like your thoughts about your mentor, I’m sure you’ve got a best seller on your hands.

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Lisa December 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Annabel,
Stating the obvious here, but please remember he’s a man, not a demi-god. Just like you can encounter a bad doctor or therapist, you seem to have found a bad mentor. Interview new ones and get references. (You’re probably right about his penis.)

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Connie December 19, 2009 at 1:57 am

Hey Annabel I write fiction too. I rarely share it but when I do, it seems to me the best gauge is whether people read it at all. Often it just disappears into a black hole and you think, it just didn’t grab them enough to finish it. My point is that if your friends read it at all, then there must be something valuable there.

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Carolyn December 19, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Oh Annabel, you know how to make your readers laugh, you make us all here laugh and cry. You have to know that you will be a success at writing, you have a huge band of fans cheering you on.

And when it doesn’t go how you want it to go, have a break, maybe head in another direction and soldier on. You know you can do it!

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Annabel Candy December 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Brad – I like that. It does mean a lot to me so it makes sense that it hurts when you get criticised for something you want to be good at.

Lisa – Yes, just one man. Possibly with a few hangups too…. :)

Connie – Thanks. They were good friends. I need to be grateful for that! And I don’t think they care if I’m a published author or not.

Carolyn – I really appreciate all the support I get here. I know I shouldn’t need it but I do. It helps so much. Thanks so much for your kind words:)

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Robin Dickinson December 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I feel you, Annabel. Rejection can sting and leave an ache that is sensitive to touch. Sounds like you’re going to pull through – shaken, but not stirred.

I guess I come from the opposite world. A world where there is so much rejection that I nicknamed it ‘the rejection business’. It’s just part of the rough and tumble of my week. It adds colour and interest. As such, rejection is something I learned a long time ago, to never take personally.

Have a good break,

Robin :)

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Randall December 20, 2009 at 12:48 am

That story was so painful, at least the first part! I know you won’t give up. I believe people sometimes are lfted to the status of a critic or expert and they just let it go to thier head. Some teachers do take a great deal of joy from injuring their students. My kids are in college and it seems some professors are prone to give thier class a hard time just because they can. Professors who are really effective and care about thier subjects and are passionate will take the time to translate thier experience and knowledge because they really believe in what they do.

There are others who have landed themselves in a profession to which they are not suited. Opinions are just that, opinions. We need to be selective where we seek out opinions about our work. I am through listening to people who obviously do not have my best interests at heart. That is not to say that we cannot take constructive critisizm but after a while if they don’t see any value, maybe it is the source that is sour and not the product!

Just thought I would leave a comment to hopefully encourage you and let you know how valuable you are to all of us. The story really pissed me off! How dare he try to degrade someone we are all fond of! Thanks for all you do!

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Bobh December 20, 2009 at 12:57 am

Thanks for the post – first I applaud you for not only following your dream but then writing about the pain when there is a major bump. Another word for rejection is failure and most people avoid trying because of the fear of failure. It’s easy to make an excuse and not try rather than go for it and risk. As I got older and my “failures” mounted I’ve come to believe that failure demonstrates specific competency level. The etymology of root word = deficiency. But failure is complex. People interpret and respond differently – they attach emotions to it. And because most feedback in life is performance oriented, general, non-informative, or tinged with emotion, it’s easy to see how it can cause doubt, disinterest, frustration, lead to decrease in Self-Efficacy and motivation and then ultimately lead to task avoidance and learned helplessness. Net + Failure can be OK – Your perception is your reality.
Keep writing and sharing – Bob

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Paul December 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

AC,

First, every editor wants to put his/her nose on your baby. It’s what editors do.

Second, this is one guy’s opinion, which may or may not have validity and creds. However, you paid him to tell you what was wrong. (What the heck is a “literary mentor?” Man, I gotta try that one.)

Third, a good piece is written. Greatness is created in editing and re-editing. I’ve never had a piece go through unscathed, whether it’s catalog copy for nutritional supplements or any other writing. Revisions are all part of the gig. Welcome to the wacky world of the written word.

Finally, it’s not about you. It’s about the writing. You have to make the distinction between self and words or you’ll always have doubts about your ability to write.

I’ve been an editor for 35 years. You’re better than you think.

PL

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Annabel Candy December 21, 2009 at 9:35 am

Robin, Randall, Bobh and Paul – So much brilliant advice. I’m really humbled that you’ve taken the time to share your thoughts and shine a light on this problem. It will definitely help motivate me and help me stay on track. I’ve noticed that there are two types of people in this world. Givers who love sharing their knowledge and experience with others and hoarders who jealously guard their knowledge. You are definitely givers and I hope I can give back to all of you. Thanks!

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Brandi December 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for your honesty Annabel! I felt validated in my own feelings of rejection as a writer. I definitely think this will be something you’ll look back on one day as a successful no.1 bestselling author. And that guy? You won’t even remember his name. =)

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Annabel Candy December 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Brandi – Thanks. I was hoping it’s something everyone can relate to. Hehe, what guy anyway?

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Buzz December 21, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Annabel, don’t let the bastard grind you down! One ‘esteemed’ person’s viewpoint can be polar-opposites to another.
Heck, even J K Rowling went thru that bitter rejection period. Not one rejection, but 12!
So yes, breath, take some time out, and then review your options.
I may be a tad biased, but I think you’ve got it!

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Hilary December 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Hi Anabel – good for you … maybe he doesn’t write too well either, or is writing from another age before technology .. be positive .. but don’t slate him – just prove your point – win through.

2010 will bring new rewards –
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

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