Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bouncing Back

My friend Tom Lemmer once told me I should be papering my bathroom walls with rejection slips.

Before anyone jumps on Tom, let's get this straight. My writing isn't everyone's cup of tea. No one's writing is. Tom was telling me to reach, to grow, to get beyond the known, which means I've got to risk rejection. A lot of it.

I started a bulletin board yesterday. Made it special, just for rejection notices. Got two so far and more to come.

The first one, from a magazine, kind of threw me. I really liked the essay I sent them and even though it was only the second one I'd written, I had pretty high hopes. After all, the first one I ever wrote got published. Why not the second?

"Thanks so much, but we don't have a spot for this in an upcoming issue."

Ouch! The woman has mastered the art of succinct. She might as well have written: "We don't want to stink up our magazine with this shit."

I combed my bangs over the big L on my forehead and slunk around the house wondering if the whole world was laughing at me.

Then I remembered the whole world has its own problems—wars and famine and such.

And I remembered Carolyn See's suggestion in Making a Literary Life: send thank you notes for rejections. See says a thank you note deflects the negative energy and reframes the rejection into a new opportunity.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my essay. Although disappointed it will not appear in your fine magazine, I appreciate your response.

I wish you and ___ continued success.

Ms. See is right. I felt better the moment I hit send. Pffft! Those pulses coursed their way through cyberspace, and the ball was back in the editor's court instead of ricocheting around the dark corners of my mine.

When the second rejection arrived, I didn't even hesitate. Composed a nice little note and fired it off in minutes. My mood improved right on cue.

The bulletin board was my own idea, kind of a yardstick for my growth. Not quite "papering my bathroom," but I did hang it on the back of the bathroom door. You know—poetic justice and all.


mamatulip said...

My mum and my Gram always used to tell me that you kill more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. And you know what? They're right.

(Of course.) :)

Michelle O'Neil said...

I've sent thank yous for rejections as well. Not all of them, but some. Especially if someone has actually read the work. I hadn't thought of it like that, but it does kind of turn the mood around, doesn't it?

Now as far as that magazine goes, we wouldn't want you to be published in something where the editor has such bad judgement, right?

lo said...

I love your idea about the bulletin board. I call the rejection letters something different. PFO letters (Please F#$k Off Letters). After graduating from university and thinking we were 'the bomb' and that everyone was just waiting to employ us, my friends and i started 'wallpapering' our walls with PFO letters. It made what seemed to be a negative or depressing experience kinda funny-put it all in perspective!!!

Amber said...

The thank you note is a great idea. I read that in some writing book, somewhere, too.

Stephen King saved all his rejection letters, from the time he was a kid.


Steph said...

This made me laugh out loud....and smile quite big. I think your writing is great. Just thought I would mention that. :) love you.

Jess said...

Someone is a writing class recommended that book a few years ago, I love it.

Guess I should start submitting things so I can accumulate some rejections, eh?

Go Mama said...

Love how you are turning it all around, rather than holding on to the rejection energy. In the end, it's all about "fit" anyway. Doesn't mean you're a bad writer or a loser, just might not be the right style or fit for that particular venue. Or, there might be a better home for it somewhere else. Or, even the exercise of doing it might have opened a different kind of door for you...

...always possibilities, always potential in every moment....

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I do that, I send thank you notes for rejections, all but one, that is, this one, that came about 20 minutes after an electronic query, "Sorry - not for me." WTF?

LOVE, and will more than likely steal, your bathroom idea! I'm well on my way to two doors' worth, already!