Friday, November 02, 2007

NH: Rejection

I’m in a bad mood today. Give me a couple of days and I’ll bounce back—I always do. My bad mood is from the same source as your bad moods: a rejection. This one was particularly painful because it was from a publisher I’ve published two prior books with and my new proposal was for my best book yet….in my opinion. They did not agree.

I wish I could say that rejections get easier as the years go by. And for some people, I suppose they do. But I’m not one of those people. I actually have warm blood running through my veins. Smiley here.

If you too have warm blood, you likely go through some variation of the following stages when faced with a major rejection:

1. The first stage, of course, is the What are those stoopid editors thinking stage. This proposal is GOOD! Why can’t they see that? And compare my novel with what IS selling these days! Ack! (Of course, when I reject a novel from an author, it’s always the right decision. I’m clearly exempted from the inept editor category). Another smiley here please.

2. Next comes: I’ll show them! I’ll send it out to a really knowledgeable editor who will publish it to great acclaim. A year from now they’ll be holding meetings trying to remember which editor was responsible for letting this masterpiece slip away!

3. Step three is the food and TV stage. Lots of feel-good food, like pizza, donuts, chocolate chip cookies, Breyer’s ice cream (vanilla, of course). TV-fare like old “I Love Lucy” reruns. Anything that’s funny and mindless. Barney Fife is a great restorer of one’s soul at times like this.

4. Next (after a day or two of misery) I might actually pray about the rejection. Okay, okay, I know this should be step one….but somehow ranting for a couple of days is more fun, if less spiritual. But after the rant and after the gorging, there has to come a time where I must acknowledge that which I’ve known all along: God is my agent. God is the one who directs my writing path. Long ago all of this was surrendered to Him. And yes, another rejection is a clear reminder that God has not seen fit (once again) to consult my timetable. Prayer calms me down. It starts to bring me back into focus. During this phase I may even do some repenting for steps one, two and three.

5. When I think I might be ready to face life as a writer once again, I usually drive over to Barnes & Noble, get a venti-sized mocha, and browse awhile. Usually I’ll pick up a few attractive books and read the first few lines. For some reason, this motivates me. Why, I could have written this, I think. Being in the company of all those books is like finding comfort among close friends. No doubt many, if not most of the books on the shelves at Barnes & Noble were rejected at least once before finding a publisher. I recall the story of Patrick Dennis and his manuscript for Auntie Mame. He started sending it out by working his way through an alphabetical list of publishers. It was finally accepted by Vanguard Press.

6. By the time I’m ready to drive home from the bookstore, I’m beginning to think clearly again. Actually there are two places where I do my best thinking about my writing: in the driver’s seat and in the shower—neither of which is conducive to jotting down all the insights that sprout up. But somehow on the drive home or somewhere during the next day or two, the creativity kicks in once again. The well that I thought was permanently parched by rejection has once again started to accept the trickle of ideas and what-ifs that might make for a great new book idea—or an improvement on the tear-stained manuscript still sitting where I left it after reading the dastardly rejection.

Hope springs eternal for the writer who won’t allow himself to become hardened by rejection. And even if I never publish another book, I’ll still endure gladly (okay, gladly probably isn’t the word here) the process that includes rejection. It’s in my blood, after all. That same warm blood coursing through my veins doesn’t know what it means to give up writing. I suppose that’s a good thing. I’ll be in a better position to decide in about 48 hours.