It’s a mantra of sorts around here. Be it short fiction, job applications, or solutions to puzzles, rejection is something all writers must come to terms with very quickly if they are to be successful.
I have worked on many award winning games. I have worked on properties that are now worth billions of dollars. I have worked with some of the smartest creatives and savviest business people you’ll ever meet. And every single one of them has one important thing in common.
Someone, at some point, told them NO. And they decided to go ahead anyway.
Failure is always an option. There are times when something you’ve created is best printed on toilet tissue, in the spirit of like calls to like. Someone will likely tell you NO when it’s presented for publication.
I have been that person. I was right, and so were the authors who wrote their own versions of awesome.
So what is it about rejection that is so paralyzing? Even a word warrior like myself dies a little bit when the NO comes in, and my skin is about as thick as it comes. Sure, I’m a seething ball of hate underneath, but there’s a healthy level of emotional dermis between me and the rest of the world.
I’ve got no answers. It’s just hurt, and that’s not a choice we make, whether we understand it or not. Perhaps it’s a delayed reaction to schoolyard bullying, though I’m shamed to say I’ve been on both sides of that equation as well.
The death of a dream will always leave a mark, no matter how inured you are to the inevitability of failure. There are too many other writers. There are too many other good stories. You’ll never crack that market. They only want NAME writers. It’s just not my time.
I have a very technical piece of advice for anyone who believes the above excuses.
It’s a waiting game, and one you can only win by playing. It’s got a lower return than a lottery ticket, is in fact the worst part-time job you can’t quit, and it will break your heart over and over again.
But here’s what happens when you believe in yourself, especially when nobody else does.
A couple years back, I decided to celebrate the wait, and turned it into a game. One for which I gladly share a creator’s credit, in that I stole pretty much all of it from my friend Mary Robinette Kowal. Instead of documenting her travel woes, we drink to the submission process. And by we, I mean I, though you’re all invited to play, if you think you can keep up.
There are three ways to play #storygoround : #submitted, #rejected , and #SOLD . The first two status should be followed by #haveadrink, in which I endeavor to do so. #SOLD is/will be paired with #takeadrink, in which you endeavor to celebrate my happy news.
In two years of solid play, I have quite a few sober freinds.
“But wait,” you might say. “Didn’t you sell a book? Haven’t you been doing annoying Marketing ™ for it?”
Why yes, yes I have . But I foolishly neglected to tag it with #SOLD, basking in the glory of an advance which I promptly used to pay my rent. Although I did take some very sage advice when the book hit the shelves.
But that’s the past, and current rejections aside, the process has been a good one. A dozen pieces have gone out many dozens of times, and several have been very warmly #rejected. Some just missed the final cut for the publications in question, so overall I’m feeling pretty good about the words. And as of yesterday, I even have three long-form pieces out with three different publishers, and a full bottle of scotch.