I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks. During those weeks I went through, literally, a lifetime of debris. Newspaper articles, notes, artwork (so-called), manuscripts, and more. And during this little “Spring purging,” I experienced an unnerving epiphany: I truly and irrevocably…suck.
At least according to all the editors I’ve submitted to over my lifetime.
I mean, sure, none of them actually used the word “suck,” but it was all there, all right:
“Thank you for your interest in <fill in the blank>, but our market is currently full.”
“Thank you for your interest in <fill in the blank>, but not quite to our tastes—try again.”
“Thank you for your interest in <fill in the blank>, but your plot (if you can call it that) is weak, your story stinks, and your characters—heck, did you even have any?!”
“Thank you for your interest in <fill in the blank>, but no, you’re not collecting any money from us on this one. Why don’t you just do everyone a friggin favor and just die already?”
I have often and always heard that writers should have a thick skin and persevere. I have also heard often and always that writers should hang on to all their rejection letters.
Let me just tell you from two weeks (and one full-court press of four solid 12 to 14-hour days) of going through each and every dang rejection letter over the course of my nearly fifty years of walking this planet—I reject that convention!
Every time I picked up one of those damn things, you know what went through my head?
Note even just “”you suck,” but “You SUCK!”
So why would I want to hold on to such negatively reinforcing behavior (even if it is true)? So, that in the one Big Moment that might possibly come in my future wanderings across this rocky and water-logged planet I could throw all these rejection letters back at the editorial world, and shout “SEE!” in a wild-eyed blaze of fervent and frothy vindication?
So I could paper my next home with them?
So I could use them to say, “Hey—one step closer to—“?!
Negative, no, and to hell with it.
I rejected holding onto such negative reinforcement. I rejected them.
And there were hundreds of them, lemmetellya.
Should I take the hint? Give up writing?
In the same breath, I found that some of the stuff that had been rejected had also been accepted by others. So, the saying that one man’s (or woman’s) trash is another’s gold is also at work here.
Without further dissection of the following, there simply is no accounting for taste. And I don’t care how meticulous one is in building their ability to wield the writing craft…many of us simply will not and/or never get published. There are other forces at work here, the elusive “taste” being one of them. Sure, work you ability to the bone, get better at what it is you’re doing. Best the best dang writer you can be, write, write, and continue to write. But what I learned from this little exhausting exercise of mine (beside all the dust that yes, does accumulate even in all this filed-away, hidden, paperwork) was this one très important fact:
Good, Lord, yes, have a frigging thick skin and persevere…but also, throw—heave away from you fast and hard and with all your might—absolutely every one of those goddamned rejection letters.
And have some Benadryl® and caffeine on hand.