Rejection is part of the life of a writer. I would say, on average, I receive 3 to 4 rejections each week from literary magazines, publisher, and agents to whom I have submitted my work. At this point, I’m mostly used to it. I respond kindly, track the query in my spreadsheet, move it to the folder in my email, and go about my day. But every once in awhile, it hits me and I’m strapped on a carousel of up and down emotion, where success and acceptance seem to flash by every once in awhile. Every time I send out a query I am filled with hope. Every. Single. Time. My carousel pony is bright and glittering and full of promise and I just know this will be the one. Then I receive a rejection letter and I just want to get off the carousel. I feel nauseous, a little disoriented, and ready for a different ride–ideally one I can be in control of.
During a recent class (“Intro to the Profession of Writing,” i.e how to make money so you can still be a writer), a guest instructor quoted the submission stats for a very famous, gross-genre author. I don’t know where he got his numbers but he said she confessed to the interviewer 90% of her submissions were rejected. 90% people!!! And she’s already famous! When she submits something and they see her name–they know who she is!!! That blew me away. At first, I thought, well then, it’s just about hopeless for me. Then, I thought about it more and was buoyed. If 90% of Ms. Famous Author’s work is rejected, how dare I be discouraged when 99% of mine is also rejected. I haven’t earned discouragement.
I was reading a review on agentquery.com for an agent I really like. The person writing the review had just been picked up by this agent. In his review he said he’d been lucky in finding an agent relatively quickly. He’d only sent out 45 queries when he was picked up. I’ve queried my newest novel 38 times and I haven’t heard back from all of them, so I can’t even claim 38 rejections. I only queried The Golden Apple about 25 times total and only about a dozen times before deciding to self-publish (a decision I am glad to have made as it gave me insight into the true value of the team of people working on your book when you go the “traditional” route).
45 queries is quick, which means I still have the potential to be picked up quickly. That means I haven’t earned anything less than hope and tenacity. If I allow myself to indulge in discouragement, I’m basically just telling myself, it’s too hard, I’m too lazy and inpatient, and I am unwilling to do what’s necessary to win. It would be the same as entering the NYC marathon after only running in one previous (half) marathon and then being disappointed and discourage when I didn’t win. Of course I wouldn’t win–there would be hundreds of other people running ahead of me with more experience, and more training under their belt. Of course I wouldn’t win–I wouldn’t deserve it and I certainly wouldn’t have earned it.
We have to earn our dreams or we are no better off than the people who fail to dream in the first place. It’s why I decided to get an MFA–to earn validation and craft knowledge. It’s why I write everyday. If I don’t work hard for what I want, I wouldn’t enjoy it, even if, by some miracle and break in the laws of nature, I got it. We only really savor and take pride in the things we’ve worked hard for and been faithful to. When I do get published and make the best-seller list, I want to be proud and celebratory and look back at my tenacity with encouragement that bolsters me for the road ahead.
I pray every day that the right agent or publisher will read my query and feel a pull in their heart that leads them to me and my book. With that prayer I can choose one of two things: I can be discouraged and doubtful, questioning God and my destiny OR I can be faithful and prove that I’m worth success, that I’m willing to earn it, and have the moxie to do what’s necessary afterwards.
Still, I hope it happens sooner rather than later.