I opened my e-mail the other morning to find a rejection letter for a novel I’m shopping around to agents. The agency note was polite, but it still felt like a punch in the gut.
I know rejection is a hazard writers have to face, and this wasn’t my first (it’s 15th or 16th for this particular novel). But knowing something intellectually isn’t the same as experiencing it emotionally. I sat at my kitchen table in the quiet of the early morning, the rest of the family still asleep, and wondered if I was wasting my time.
I think I’m a good writer. I think I wrote a gripping novel that will snatch up readers and take them out of their own lives for a time. But every rejection forces me to consider otherwise. I have to contend with the possibility that I suck, and the novel I’ve poured hundreds and hundreds of hours into is a failure.
I know I’m not alone in having these feelings. So how do you cope with rejection and get back to work? A drink? A brisk walk around the block? Some quality time with boxing gloves and a heavy bag? Weeping in a corner?
I think my own coping mechanism is two-fold. First is habit; I’ve been writing for years and years at the same time every day. It’s just what I do now, as ingrained as flipping on a light switch in a dark room. Habit means I don’t ask myself “Do I want to write today?” That’s valuable, because that question would inevitably lead to others, such as “Is this worth it?” and “Do you understand how high the odds are against success?”
Second is a stupid, persistent hope. I want this so badly. I want it so much that I’m willing to carry on despite clear signals that say I shouldn’t. That’s the stupid part. The persistent part is that my hope reconstitutes itself even after the hard blow of a rejection letter. I’m not sure how, and I don’t think it bears close inspection. But I’m glad it’s there.
What’s your coping mechanism?