Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stages of Rejection

Sorry for the downer subject, but having received a particularly disappointing rejection almost a month ago and just realizing I’m not totally over it yet, I’ve been reflecting on how we, as writers, deal with this inevitable and frequent event called rejection.

I wondered if the five stages of grief might offer some clues. The most well known stages of grief as defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross are:

Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me?)
Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
Depression (I don't care anymore)
Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

Somehow, this list doesn’t adequately describe my personal rejection coping process, at least at this point. I admit, my rejection coping strategies have evolved as I've progressed as a writer.

Anger? In the early days, I probably did go through some anger, (what an idiot that agent/editor is), and along with that anger, I read lots of personal meaning into phrases I later recognized as part of that particular agent’s form letter. Really, though, I can’t remember the last time a rejection made me angry. Two years ago? Three? All-in-all, I’ve gotten pretty good at shrugging off rejections. Even bad contest scores don’t really make me angry any more. I mean, what’s the point? I’m not even (that) bitter about the fact the Stiletto contest imploded this year and I’ll never know how my finalling manuscript, THE MISEDUCATION OF APRIL HILLSON, placed. Okay, I’m a little bitter. But what difference would it make to know whether I was first, second or third? I’ve already got a great agent.

Bargaining? I’m not sure I ever did that—unless you can count the days when I kept putting time limits on how long I’d keep trying to get published. (I’ll give myself one year to get published. Okay, two. Okay, three. I’ve since seen the folly in that!)

I’d say my stages of rejection are:

Ambivalence (It doesn’t matter.)
Depression (I’m never, ever, going to sell. I suck.)
Rationalization (I wasn’t expecting that one anyway. It was bad timing, bad luck.)
Acceptance (It was just one chance. I'll have others as long as I keep trying.)
Optimism (I’ll get ‘em next time. It took many great writers a long time to get published. Maybe I’ll sell that book after the one I’m working on now hits bestseller lists.)

Thing is, the “bigger” and more disappointing a rejection is for me, the more these stages seem to cycle. I think sometimes I need to run through them all a few times, before I truly graduate from faux optimism to the real thing.

The bigger my hopes the farther I fall and the more times I need to rinse and repeat*. Know what I mean?

At least that’s how I’m rationalizing the funk I’ve been this past week. The “really disappointing” rejection came right after labor day. You’d think I’d be over it by now…

Onward and upward. (she said optimistically)

What are your stages of rejection?

*(Ha! I'm blogging about hair on my other blog today. The rinse and repeat metaphor was an unconscious coincidence.)

Post script: Not sure if there will be any fresh posts until next week. The drunk writers are heading to New Jersey for a conference and to catch up on their drinking.


Sinead M said...

so right. At first I took each rejection personally as well.
Now they seem to be something I rationalize.

They still suck...

Maureen McGowan said...

Rationalization is the most important step, I think :-)

Kimber said...

I get my angry on big time.
At everyone and everything.
Even my plants quivor in fear.

Then I swing into "get even" mode. They rejected me? Well, screw them. I'm going to sell the most damn books a publishing house has ever seen and the agent, publisher, contest judge, street vendor will regret that rejection letter for the rest of their lives. It will hang over their heads and haunt every future decision.

Alpha's don't take rejection very well.

Christine said...

I've only received one rejection (only because I've only submitted one manuscript :)). I was rejected on a query letter, so it was easy to brush it off. They only rejected my story idea, not my writing. Now if Ellora's Cave rejects my current manuscript, I'll let you know how I make out. I'm thinking depression and chocolate will be my reaction.

Anonymous said...

Chambord Margaritas. I swear by them. And once I've had enough, I swear I'm absolutely brilliant!

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