"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Every writer knows what a rejection is. It’s that proverbial knife to the heart – the slap to the face. But worse, it is the moment when a writer begins to second guess themselves, to wonder if the path they have chosen was the wrong one.
As a writer, ideas float in and out of your brain like boats in a harbor. The voices in your head will not cease, and the only way to get them to quiet down is to place fingers to keyboard and write. Over time you produce articles, essays, short stories, and possibly a novel. Hours, days, months, and sometimes years go into perfecting your masterpieces. Plot, sub plot, and characterization, are all over analyzed. Sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation have been checked, re-checked, and checked again. It isn’t until you finally feel a sense of completion with your piece that you decide to move onto the next step; searching for a publisher.
You dust off your Writers Market, wipe down the keyboard and spend countless hours reading and re-reading submission guidelines. Every detail is memorized until you’ve narrowed your search down to a list of potential prospects. The next few weeks are dedicated to writing the best damn query letter ever. The guidelines have been followed. You hold your breath and email your letter.
You wake one morning to find a reply. With shaky fingers you click on the message and read “Dear Writer.” You have been rejected. Your query was not even good enough to require addressing you by name. Smack.
In the beginning of the rejection process you can understand a publisher’s plight. You are a new writer with little or no other published pieces, and minimal experience. However, as a writer you should know, there will always be rejections. The question is will it be easier to take? Will the knife only venture in a little bit, just grazing the skin? Will there be no more slaps to the face, your pride staying intact?
The answer is no.
As a writer you do not put fingers to keyboard without depositing a sliver of yourself. And so, because your writing becomes personal, a rejection will hurt. Some may go deeper than others, but they will all cut just the same.
It is a ritual for me, after receiving a rejection, to find myself at the bookstore. Reminiscent to Time Square on New Year’s Eve, the bookstore is my happy place. I feel exhilarated when I walk through the glass doors and anticipate what my next new read will be. But I often find myself amongst the tall shelves and smell of paper for another reason. There is something else – something deeper. And maybe you have to be a writer to understand, but the bookstore is the one place I can go and be surrounded by those who trudged the “writer’s path” long before me.
It is a place void of judgment. No one here knows about my battles as a writer, my scars invisible to all. I can walk through the aisles and run my fingers down the short and tall bindings playing refuge to the words written by some of my favourite authors. It is here I can take Charlotte Bronte’s Jayne Eyre, and read her words as if she is standing right before me. I can clutch Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and know he revised every word a hundred times. I can wonder if Charles Dickens felt the burst of emotion I do when I’ve completed a piece of literature. And I can sit cross-legged and thumb through Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice knowing she felt the same pain I do with a rejection. And in my private moment of self pity, my eyes are opened. I have not been the only one to labor over pages and pages, trying desperately to make them perfect. I am not the only one whose dream was squashed with the words “I’m sorry” or “Dear Writer.”
I am not alone. I will never be alone as I carve out my small niche in the writing world. I am surrounded by the best. The “greats” I aspire to be. The authors who have all been there, but still prevailed. They survived amongst the piles and piles of rejection letters. They picked themselves up, and pulled the knife from their heart, sat down at their desks and started all over again. They carried on. And so must I.