Rejection


What better way to start an author site than to discuss rejection?

I have been rejected countless times in my life. By women (a lot of them). Employers. My own subconscious. Don Hertzfeld. And yes, even by literary agents. My first long-form piece, a novella titled "Eleanor" (I'm not going to tell you what it's about yet, because hopefully one day someone will want to publish it, or I'll just suck it up and self-publish), didn't make the agent cut due to length. Most publishers won't publish novellas, especially for first-time authors, because they can't sell my 30,000 words as easily as they can sell Neil Gaiman's. Makes sense. I took the agent's great feedback and refocused my efforts on more substantial work. Yes, someone had turned away my precious baby, my beautiful child (the nerve!), but it wasn't personal, it's business. There are margins that a publisher needs to see in order to take the publishing plunge and invest. Novellas don't usually fit into those margins, so onward!

But one of the great hurdles that first-time authors, or even first-time writers have to overcome is rejection. Not the fear of it, you should never stop fearing rejection, because that fear helps keep the brain sharp and expectations realistic. What you should fear is the post-rejection fallout. It's not easy to be told your shit stinks; most people want to live in a Febreezy world where every word that flows out of their fingertips is inked in solid, fragrant gold (does gold have a smell? I am not a rich man). When you find out those foreign stenches are coming from you, it's easy to curl up into a ball and never want to leave the apartment ever again. But the reality is that rejection is a part of the writing process. You can't take it personally. You can't even really acknowledge it, other than to use it as a motivator (and it's a damn good one; the best).

Every author gets rejected. It's how you respond to it that defines you. I was lucky to have come from the world of journalism, where editors would send me on assignment, asking me to write passionate, long-form pieces only to decide posthumously not to publish my story on the U.S. version of American Gladiators (true story). Years of that sort of thing thickened my skin. It bulked up my backbone. And I feel armed to fail. Think about it like this: We're all armed to succeed. We can all handle compliments and candy pretty well. But our world is just one long, continuous journey through success and failure. We're here because our species "succeeded," and, as such, our brains don't cope too well with failure. But if you're serious about having a writing career, you better submit your work juiced up like Bane, sitting in front of your computer, waiting for the rejection letter, your steroid-fingers swollen so big you type like tfghg huj ikl swedf (this), because failure is part of success. Toughen up, sissies.

I don't want to turn this site into a fucking pulpit. It's called A, Robot, not "I'm Awesome." I plan to use this site as a platform to share interesting ideas (and some stupid ones, too, I assure you), to observe the world, to argue about science fiction, literature, comic books, etc., to share inspiring artwork, to croon over artists of every sort, to learn from people much smarter than I am, and to demand that you read the same things I'm reading so I'll have someone to argue with. And, of course, to document my literary journey. But I want to have FUN here, not slog through a preachy game of telephone. I'm still figuring this whole writing thing out, just like you are, and I'm not going to pretend to know everything there is to know about being an author, because, dammit, I'm not one yet. Well, I am an author, but the gap between published and unpublished is canyon-esque sometimes, and my inclination is to reject even my own assertions, because rejection is fun!

I am wrapping up my third piece (and hopefully my first published novel), a beastly Sci-Fi thing that dwarfs poor little "Eleanor," and while I've grown so much as a writer since finishing that initial novella, I'm still learning more about the craft every day. I learn from reading, I learn from other people, I learn from history, I learn from shutting the hell up and allowing my brain some time to decompress, but mostly, I learn from failing. I fuck up on a daily basis, sitting in front of a flashing cursor wondering if the last sentence is even worth keeping, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Every sentence is a challenge; it's a mounted knight standing opposite the jousting ... thing (you know), and I choose to face the bastard, whether or not his lance is longer or his horse is faster, because what do I have to lose? Rejection is just a chance to get better.