One of my favorite moments in the movie Monsters, Inc. occurs when Sulley, a superstar, and Mike Wazowski, his assistant, are watching a TV commercial/public service announcement made by their company. While Sulley is featured prominently in the commercial, poor little one-eyed Mike has only one shot on screen, and in it his whole face is covered by print copy.
After the commercial ends, he says to Sulley, “I can’t believe it!”
Sulley, realizing what has happened, starts to comfort him, only to be cut off by Mike’s excited proclamation:
“I WAS ON T.V.!!”
Yesterday, after a cringe-worthy relay performance at her swim meet, my daughter had a similar reaction. As she raced up to me after the meet, I was braced to do some self-confidence damage control.
“Did you see that?” she asked excitedly. “If we had been the same age as those big girls, we would TOTALLY have beaten them!”
So, I took a cue from James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and told my little Mike Wazowski, “that’s right!”
Rejection is not fun. It is not a good feeling to try hard for something and not achieve it. (Just ask the New England Patriots!). It is also inevitable that we will all face rejection at some point in our lives. As the above examples illustrate, we can’t always control how or when rejection happens, but we can control how we respond to it.
As a writer, I’ve noticed a theme at conferences, in critique groups, and in blogs about writing: get ready for rejection. Lots of it. With that in mind, here are my top five favorite ways to weather the storm of rejection:
1. Take a little time to sulk. You are not a robot.
2. Take the Mike Wazowski approach: “I got a letter from an editor!!”
3. Take my daughter’s approach: “When I make this manuscript bigger and better, it will succeed!”
4. Appreciate that a “no” from one publisher leaves you room for a “yes” from another. Maybe hearing “no” from a small publishing house will translate to better sales when a bigger house says, “yes”!
5. Process the rejection on a professional, not personal, level. I’m sure if Ms. Rejecter met you, she would like you very much. But Ms. Rejecter has a job to do, and I guarantee she doesn’t like rejection, either. Her critique is of your work, not you. Bonus is that the critiques you read in a rejection letter will help you strengthen your story.
Rejection. It stinks, and it happens to all of us. However, I think it’s worth it to put yourself out there and take a chance rather than to have a wonderful treasure sitting in a desk drawer that no one will ever see. A rejection, for a writer, can be a wonderful beginning. As Neil Simon said, “In baseball, you only get three swings and you’re out. In rewriting, you get almost as many swings as you want and you know, sooner or later, you’ll hit the ball.”