I Broke a Nail (and other ways to deal with rejection)

Believe it or not, this was going to be an article for RWR, but this morning I found out, it was rejected.  Isn’t that a fine kettle of fish?  Even my article on rejection got rejected.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  🙂  (You can’t say I’m not amused by this turn of events, and at the same time, my belief in karma assures me that this is just a mild setback because the Universe has bigger, better plans ahead.  The Universe better come across soon before my head explodes.)

* * * * * *

 It’s eight in the morning.  At ten, a contest I entered will post its results online.  My heart flutters and I can’t concentrate.  This vacation day couldn’t have been better timed, but I knew I’d be useless at the office anyway.

 I know the results come out at ten but I can’t help checking early anyway.  At nine-thirty I hit “refresh” and my heart skips a beat.  The page has changed; the results are up.  I look at the list of finalist names.

 Mine’s not on it.

 Has this ever happened to you?  If you have a pulse and you want to be a professional writer, chances are good it has, in one form or another.  Bad contest scores, rejection letters, or worse yet, no response at all from your dream editor.  I’ve run the gamut and I bet you have too.

 It used to be, something like this would cause me to get my immature on.  I’d stomp and cry, whine, drink, eat chocolate to excess, or put my credit limit in jeopardy by indulging in some serious retail therapy.  Know what?  It didn’t help.  (Though the shoes were really nice.)  When the bills came in, or I needed to go to the gym to work off the chocolate, or the Tylenol wasn’t enough to stem the hangover, I’d still been knocked down in my effort to climb the ladder of success.

 Not long ago, I got back some contest scores that, let’s just say, didn’t meet with my expectations.  I thought my story was the best it could possibly be.  I loved the characters, and that emotion showed in their performance on the page.  As I hit “send” on my entry fee payment, I visualized the winner’s certificate on my wall.  Then the scores came back and knew for certain, that space on the wall would remain blank.

 Problem being, I couldn’t have my usual pity party.  My kids are teenagers and need to go places.  My husband’s job is chaotic at the end of the month and he had things to do, some of which involved my help.  (We work at the same company.)  My pity party got put on hold because I didn’t have time to lock myself in the bathroom and cry.  Guess what happened next?

 The world didn’t end.

 That was a week ago.  Today I didn’t make the second round of a four-round online contest (I only made the first round because my name was picked at random; no skill/talent involved), and I was crushed for all of a minute, but I’ve been through this often enough to know, R’s are going to happen.  All it takes is one editor or agent to love my work.  Today, it wasn’t this one, but tomorrow?  We’ll know when we get there.

 I resolved to move my pity party to the gym, where I could crank up the music on my iPod (I’d recently downloaded something with a pounding, sexy beat, and I found the song immensely inspiring) and sweat my frustrations away on the ARC machine.  I burned 150 calories in ten minutes.  That’s fifteen calories per minute!  If sex burns an average of four or five calories per minute, I burned fifteen calories per minute!  (Might’ve been more fun burning off calories with Alex O’Laughlin, but it wasn’t that kind of pity party.) 

 That was a step in the right direction:  I wasn’t about to give up.  I might not be thrilled with my career progress—or lack thereof—but I was still going to take care of myself. 

 On the drive home I decided I needed to treat the contest like a broken nail.  Out loud I told myself, “Okay, so I broke a nail.  So what.  It’ll grow back, and I’ll live.”  It’s my analogy for my career.  A broken nail isn’t fatal; neither is a failure to advance in a contest or a rejection.  It’s not what I had in mind, but it’s not going to slow down my life.  I’ll live.

 (In reality, I’ve been chewing my nails nervously, thanks to all the contests I’ve entered lately.  I have no nails left to break, but that’s beside the point.)

 When I went home, I emailed a friend who’d entered the same contest.  She did advance to the next round, and I was thrilled for her.  We chatted for a while, and I’m still thrilled for her.  She’s been working hard at her craft for years and she deserves to move forward.  Sharing in her joy made me feel better.  My nail is healing.  (Update:  she’s now in the 3rd round!  Go Cathy!) 

 When we were done talking, I found emails from my online critique group, cheering my friend and consoling me.  Knowing they’re behind me every step of the way, and they care and want to see and help me succeed?  That boosted the healing process another step.

 We discussed how we deal with “broken nails”.  Selena Fulton told me she turns off the computer and walks away, for days if need be.  When she’s ready to face the R letter again, she looks for information she can use.  If there is none, she files it away.  (Perhaps stocking up for future wallpaper? Or am I the only one who does that?)  She also indexes it on an Excel spreadsheet for future reference.  She says if she doesn’t have as many rejections as JK Rowling did before the Harry Potter series hit the big time, “Guess it’s time to resubmit!”  (I love that thought.)

 J.S. Nichols pours a glass of her favorite beverage and toasts to her rejection.  I suppose she does that because really, rejection is a mark of honor.  Not everyone survives them.  Those made of weaker stuff will cave in and go look for work somewhere else.  The rest of us hang tough, get through it, and keep moving on.

Aislinn MacNamara gets to work on more queries.  “The best defense is a good offense,” she says.  She also hits the books because “Reading other people’s writing inspires me.”  Cathy Pritchard agrees.  “It helps to have a few irons in the fire at all times. That way, if you get a ‘no’ on one thing, there’s always something else out there that provides a glimmer of hope in the distance.”

 Valerie Bowman allows herself a fifteen minute pity party before getting back to work.  She says crying is for when she gets The Call!  Great attitude, Valerie!

I suppose when my next rejection comes in, the pity party is optional.