May 2022 . . . .

“Why don’t you like me?”

Funny, it’s easier now. Easier for me to receive a rejection for something I’ve written and submitted for publication. Easier to be told “no, thank you. ” Or even just “nope. ” Post card, email, what have you — no further explanation.

Wow — it’s good to get that lie out there in the open so we can pick it apart. Rejection is not fun. But it can be useful. Or maybe not. Or it depends.

We’re curious people — writers. We want to know stuff. And then we want to talk about stuff. We want to tell you about it, whatever it is. We’re driven to do so, for a multitude of reasons. And after we’re done doing so, we want to know what you think. And when we’re done hearing from you, we want to tell someone else. An ancient but efficient way to do this is to write it all down and send it to someone for the purpose of getting our tale to you. Someone who decides whether or not this will happen — editors and publishers.

Editors are curious people, too. They want to see what you have to say. And an editor is not a critic, in the classic sense. I know it seems otherwise, but they really want to like the things they read. Just like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, however, they have to say something after they’re done reading.

And so they inform us that the answer to a submission is a happy yes. Or no. Way more often, we are told no.

And herein lies the conundrum. Having been told so we want to know what the editor or publisher thinks about our tale, the one they don’t want to publish. No. Come on, because we’re curious people, like I said. No. What didn’t you like about our story or novel, poem or essay? Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we could really use the input to make changes, corrections, improvements. Wouldn’t that be good, a nice thing to do? Better for your karma? Why can’t you take the time to tell us? It would make being told “no” ever so much more palatable, yes?

Still, no. That just isn’t going to happen. Or, if it does, it will be monetized as an author feedback program. And it will teach you next to nothing, because even armed with information about your work, you will still feel hurt and confused after you get back to the process of writing and submitting.

And yet another enigma. Why this love story instead of that? Why her dragon or wizard or alien space pirate and not mine? It can’t actually be because you read that one first, can it? Tell them no and pick me!

How you visualize rejection drives how quickly you recover from the wound of disappointment and the possible infection of discouragement, if you will forgive the heavy-handed metaphors. It is one of the non-secrets of publishing that rejection should never be taken personally. How you are told no is not a measure of your talent or skill or dedication to the craft.

I apologize for the irony but cannot say precisely why writing is an “industry” of assumptions and guesses as to what is good, or what good even means. Come to think of it — everything about writing and publishing is anecdotal. Sure, sure, there are algorithms to determine what readers are looking at, what they like, what drives them to click and possibly purchase. Metrics show publishers and editors and agents what interests are trending. But there is also a “you just never know what will be the next big thing” thing about writing.

Each submission you make, I make, is different. Distinctive in the effort expended during creation, in potential value, different in how it makes us feel when we hit send. I think about that old chestnut — you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. This is cutesy, but true. I’ve been told no a lot. I know the drill: the stages of rejection. Or I think I do . . . .

The sharp slash of disappointment, followed by a period of discouragement. They’re not the same thing. Disappointment is thinking something might happen, that a brass ring was within reach and it was always just a matter of effort / timing / luck / your turn / destiny, and then it does not happen. Discouragement, on the other hand, is feeling that you were wrong about something ever happening — wrong from the beginning. Your effort was never going to result in success, no matter how excellent you imagined your work — you were thwarted by circumstances outside your control. It was never going to be your turn — that was just crazy thinking. Why bother sitting down and getting back to work?

Nest — giving and/or getting the kick in the seat of your pants, either by yourself (yes, that seems physically impossible) or by someone else, whose opinion you trust. Where you brush yourself off and sit back down, pen in hand, and start to create again.

Finally, finding the energy to keep going.

I’ve heard of something called “manifesting” — keeping a positive attitude throughout the work you do, and willing a thing to happen. This doesn’t relieve a writer from doing the actual hard work — the creating, crafting and polishing — but it keeps you going, because you have a certain kind of hope, the one that comes from confidence that you will accomplish . . . something.

Hope is a big part of writing, I think.