Rejection: it’s not just for pimply hormonal teenage boys anymore. And if you’re a writer, you know that all too well.
You’ve seen the moral of the story on every after-school special: nerdy boy likes cute girl. Cute girl smiles shyly at nerdy boy. Nerdy boy can’t work up the guts to ask out cute girl. Then a long series of amusingly unfortunate (perhaps fortunate?) events occurs and boy finally gets his shot with cute girl. They live happily ever after, because all he had to do was try! He had been living in anguish over something that was as simple as asking a question and getting an answer, but his fear of rejection was so great that he couldn’t even try until life forced him into action.
As writers, many of us live in fear of rejection. As writers, we know that we must become friends with rejection, because we’re going to be spending a lot of time with rejection (I’ve named mine. His name is Tom). Just in case you haven’t gotten that memo, here it is: You Will Be Rejected. A LOT. GET USED TO IT.
I was struggling with this concept recently, as my title of “writer” consisted solely of being published as a guest author on various blogs (hmm, does that sound familiar?) and a second grade writing contest I won when I was seven. Seeing my words on actual paper that would be read by more than my parents and ten friends seemed so far out of my reach I didn’t even want to try.
Yes, I was the nerdy boy. Or girl. Anyway.
One day I was listening to an audio version of Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture.” If you haven’t seen/heard/read it, well then you must. You just must. In that lecture he said,
“Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people."
“…the other people.” I like that.
Suddenly, the anxiety-ridden nerdy boy inside of me had an epiphany. I needed to be rejected. To be a writer, rejection was imperative. How else would I ever prove I was any good at it? I wanted those brick walls. I wanted them so that I could claw my way up them, fighting for every inch, and throw myself over the top- I wanted to prove that I could. It was time to separate myself from “the other people.”
A strange thing happened to me then. I sent in a manuscript to a magazine. It was just a teeny tiny short little poem (if I was going to slam into a brick wall, I would rather it be a small one for my first collision- I was going for a few broken bones, not a year of traction) and I waited. I didn’t fear rejection; I welcomed it. I eagerly anticipated the letter saying, “Thank you for your inquiry, but at this time…” I wanted to get a good look at that brick wall so that I could start building some climbing muscles.
Then an even stranger thing happened. I did get a letter in the mail, but it wasn’t a brick wall. It was an open gate. A contract! They wanted to buy my poem! Needless to say, I was a little bit shocked. And oddly enough, slightly disappointed. It seemed a little too easy. I had kind of been looking forward to that brick wall. It’s like a prize fighter who is all psyched up for a fight who gets into the ring and the other guy has a fainting spell. It just kind of takes the fun out of it.
But I’m not complaining! If anything, I am now emboldened. I am looking to pick a fight, and I know that the bigger the brick walls, the bigger the reward they’re hiding on the other side. My little poem was just a tiny garden border wall. This nerdy boy is on the hunt for some big-time rejection.
Rejection is not just for pimply teenage boys anymore. There are enough brick walls out there for all of us. Let’s go find some and slam into them at full force, baby! Because they’re not there for us. They’re there to keep out the other people- the ones who don’t want it as badly as we do.
You are a writer. Isn’t it about time to let go of your fear of rejection?