Getting unstuck after rejection

[From the vault]

One of the hidden gems I find most interesting about this blog is the fact that I get to see the search terms that drive people to The Writer’s [Inner] Journey. Once in a while something comes across that has nothing and everything to do with the inner journey of writing. That search term was this:

“i feel total inner terror and deep sadne[ss]”

Nothing about writing is mentioned in the search, and yet the reader clicked and found us. I hope he or she found what they were looking for.

I’ve felt those feeling of inner terror and deep sadness before. Sometimes about writing, sometimes not. The feelings are universal but when we’re feeling them they feel so, well, un-universal.

Since this search term intrigued me, I wanted to post something that I thought was in line with the search, but from a writer’s perspective. What evokes the most inner terror and deep sadness for writers? Rejection–or fear of it.

So, I’ve culled responses from two remarkable interviews I’ve done here with Dennis Palumbo and Amy Friedman who share their take on rejection. I hope reading their POVs make you think about your own, and help you feel less inner terror if you’re prone to that kind of thing.

Meredith: Does rejection have a purpose, as far as creativity is concerned?
DENNIS PALUMBO: Tough question. The truth is, rejection’s main purpose is to help the writer build up a tolerance for rejection. Sometimes, if the writer’s lucky, an editor’s or agent’s rejection letter contains valuable information about what’s working and what isn’t, but it’s still up to the writer to decide how much to accept of these opinions. The hardest thing for a writer to understand is that, while rejection is experienced personally, it usually isn’t intended as personal. Writing is either rejected or accepted based on the (sometimes fickle) whims of the marketplace. We all know stories about manuscripts that were rejected all over town, and then finally sold, and then go on to be huge successes. So even while dealing with the pain of rejection, writers need to remember, in the words of screenwriter William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” So toss those rejection slips and keep writing!

 

Meredith: Does rejection have a purpose, as far as creativity is concerned? How about as far as your own personal process in creating?
AMY FRIEDMAN:
A most amazing question today since just before Christmas, I received the first three rejections on the memoir I just spent the last seven years writing; the rejections were unacceptable as Christmas gifts, but having been a working writer for more years than I like to remember, I know they’re just part of the process, and something all writers must build up a tolerance against. For years I worked as an editor and part of my job was to reject manuscripts; I hated it because in those cover letters I could feel the writer’s anticipation and longing. But I said “no,” for so many reasons, and “yes,” for so many.

I know acceptance and rejection have less to do with the work itself than with the marketplace, and that marketplace is a fluid and impossible-to-comprehend place. I’ve always followed this policy when sending out a manuscript for consideration: as I place it in the post (or hit SEND), I know where I’ll next be sending it. That way, if/when the rejection arrives, right away I send it out again. The despair that comes with rejection (forever) never goes away, but by sending it out again, hope arises anew, and it’s the hope that keeps me going.

*I’ve included the term as it showed up on my dashboard, but I think we can surmise the searcher meant sadness, so I’ve bracketed the extras letters.

[Originally aired 3/2010]

Meredith: Does rejection have a purpose, as far as creativity is concerned?
DENNIS PALUMBO: Tough question. The truth is, rejection’s main purpose is to help the writer build up a tolerance for rejection. Sometimes, if the writer’s lucky, an editor’s or agent’s rejection letter contains valuable information about what’s working and what isn’t, but it’s still up to the writer to decide how much to accept of these opinions. The hardest thing for a writer to understand is that, while rejection is experienced personally, it usually isn’t intended as personal. Writing is either rejected or accepted based on the (sometimes fickle) whims of the marketplace. We all know stories about manuscripts that were rejected all over town, and then finally sold, and then go on to be huge successes. So even while dealing with the pain of rejection, writers need to remember, in the words of screenwriter William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” So toss those rejection slips and keep writing!

Meredith: Does rejection have a purpose, as far as creativity is concerned? How about as far as your own personal process in creating?
AMY FRIEDMAN:
A most amazing question today since just before Christmas, I received the first three rejections on the memoir I just spent the last seven years writing; the rejections were unacceptable as Christmas gifts, but having been a working writer for more years than I like to remember, I know they’re just part of the process, and something all writers must build up a tolerance against. For years I worked as an editor and part of my job was to reject manuscripts; I hated it because in those cover letters I could feel the writer’s anticipation and longing. But I said “no,” for so many reasons, and “yes,” for so many.

I know acceptance and rejection have less to do with the work itself than with the marketplace, and that marketplace is a fluid and impossible-to-comprehend place. I’ve always followed this policy when sending out a manuscript for consideration: as I place it in the post (or hit SEND), I know where I’ll next be sending it. That way, if/when the rejection arrives, right away I send it out again. The despair that comes with rejection (forever) never goes away, but by sending it out again, hope arises anew, and it’s the hope that keeps me going.