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I’m NOt One of Those Who Can Easily Hide

I was thinking about making a YouTube about rejection and film people as they receive bad news, like getting rejected by an agent, or getting publisher’s rejections, or not getting on The Colbert Report, or not winning the National Book Award. Then there’s all kinds of other rejection: looking at yourself in the mirror, standing on the scale, having a door not held for you, no sweet smile from the cashier. What does it look getting passed over, pissed on, forgotten, dumped. Let’s just be friends. Not my cup of gumbo.  The good part about being a writer, if there is a good part, is that for the most part your rejection is somewhat private. At least that’s how I feel. The dark circus is mostly in my head. Forgot to chalk my palms.

Rejection. Discuss.

55 Responses

  1. jesus christ, betsy. i reject your idea of a rejection youtube and don’t care to discuss it.

    i mean, jesus christ. like the day’s not long enough as it is.

    jesus.

  2. I think that it is SO WEIRD that I was thinking of the song lyrics of Your Song about two hours ago when someone on t.v. asked if there were any songs about moss! “Sat on the roof, kicked off some moss…”

  3. Rejection is like a swift shot of shit to the heart.

    It hurts like hell, like being told you can’t sit in the free chair at the cool table, like hearing the snickers as you walk away with your tray, praying your apple doesn’t roll off and make your humiliation complete.

    But eventually, maybe after another circuit of the lunchroom, you find a free seat at another table where the people gladly make room for you and the conversation rocks and someone’s willing to trade your pb&j for their pudding cup.

    My apple is a bit bruised, but I’m still looking . . .

  4. Yikes! the spectre of all those who-would-do-anything-to-be-in-a-reality-tv-show crowding into your office foyer to be in that video could be a documentary itself.

    In my long experience, I would rather be despised than rejected. At least the one despising you is investing (potentailly) a life-long, albeit negative, interest. Rejection slams the door, bolts the lock and extinguishes the light. And then, one must navigate away from this situation (actually or symbolically) in the dark.

  5. Jesus fucking Christ Betsy, why not pick at my scab some more.

    Why the fuck would I or anybody channel up or down or scroll to watch pain and failure on a screen? I can look in the mirror for that. As a matter of fact I have to look away sometimes because the face I see breaks my fucking heart.

    I’m going to bed. Thanks B for a stellar evening.

    Tet is right, ‘like the days not long enough as it is’.

  6. I dunno. I liked your earlier theory that we write for revenge and of course that means avenging all that rejection. It stings; it’s soul-sucking and rib-cage-crushing and all that, for sure, but ultimately, it should just make you want to pick yourself up and be even better than you already hoped you were. Rocky, guys. It’s not just about winning.

  7. i dunno. rejection can free your writing up sometimes. on sunday morning i received a rejection. sunday morning. for fuck’s sake, that’s just wrong. after a bit of a sulk, i just started writing and some weird shit came out and i kinda like it.

    the theme is burning light and, folks, the dirty duck is shining.

  8. I think a YouTube video could be good. But will it be as good as the Asian guy playing Betsy in that other one? I loved that.

  9. The privacy of a literary rejection is one of the few dignities left in this social media-obsessed world. Anymore, all the world’s a window on shame. Every stupid thought a person has now comes complete with a glittering marquee. Fuck that. Let’s go back to a time when rejection could fester in the chambers of the heart and come out years later as twisted as a Schiele self-portrait.

  10. The reality (ha) is that those who were despised and rejected would force a beatific smile for the camera. Happens all the time at the Oscars when the camera pans to the “losers” (or it used to, haven’t watched them in years, they’re on too damn late over here.)

  11. What does rejection look like? You mean there’s a writer in existence who doesn’t know? (I can’t remember what that’s like.)

  12. I’d rather watch a reality show starring teenagers and their parents. The other day my daughter was brushing her teeth and after spitting in the sink, growled, “I wish that was your face.” It was the first time in my life I could laugh at rejection and, let me tell you, it really is a most delightful state.

  13. Someone once told me that rejection gets easier. After 15 years of being a freelance writer, I can tell you that rejection still stings, but any success you’ve had can soften the blow. So instead of thinking “They hate me. I’m no good” you think “They hate me, but others have liked me. So maybe they’re just an idiot.” 🙂

  14. I did a pretty stellar courtesy wave to the neighbor the other day. Nothing. NOTHING! I found comfort in my sudden thought that he must be intimidated… or a terrorist. Yeah. Still working on the graceful handling of rejection part.

  15. It hurts. Worst part is thinking you’re no good, no matter how nicely the rejection is worded. Two ingredients for keeping a clear mind: sensitivity and detachment. Mix ’em together and you see the world clearly but you just don’t care. I’m as close to that as the earth and Uranus.

  16. I’m numb to rejections in this industry. Publishing’s a business, not to be taken personally. Those who reject us are fearing for their livelihoods as they watch the traditional publishing world implode. It’s not about good or bad writing, it’s about what sells. Plain and simple.

  17. I’m just glad I had read a lot of articles and posts like this about the time I started submitting, probably when I was about 18. Rejection always sucked, but it sucked less knowing how normal it was, the sheer impossibility of responding to everyone personally–and learning over time that that stuff you submitted years ago wasn’t even worth a polite no. Your tears were the tears of an amateur.

    I take the small victories–a personal no, the hand-scribbled note I got in the mail (yes, actual mail, and it was lovely) over the summer from a lit mag I submitted to thinking it a Hail Mary pass. I don’t know what it says about me that I enjoy about those notes that say, “I don’t want to be your friend, but I’m sure there’s someone who does.” But I enjoy them, for better or for worse. Took me a while to start getting them. Gotta earn that shit.

    Scott

  18. Grab your pitchforks and torches! Launch your medieval fire cannons! Release the Kraken! I’ve not been rejected much at all in my life.

    But it also might be that I’ve not put myself out there much either, at least not with anything I’ve truly cared about.

    If you’re going to hurl something, make it some of Downithh’s Hob Nobs. I’ve been obsessed with those since a trip to England awhile back.

  19. On another blog… the advice on being a writer is to “grow callouses.” And here, all along, I’ve been trying to prevent them.

    Rejection is like being a wallflower. It’s hard to be the only one not dancing. The punch you’re handed is sugary sweet, but you clutch the plastic cup and keep drinking, act like you don’t care. You wish you’d brought your flask of vodka, you wish you’d stayed home. Does anyone even see you?

  20. What’s a Hob Nob?

  21. So many kinds of rejections! I’ve gathered hundreds from literary agents. They are tough to receive, but at least you read them in the privacy of your cave. When I was an actor, rejection was intense and deeply personal. You’re on a stage, sharing your craft and you hear, “Thank you. Next.” I’m not sure I’ve recovered from all that thirty plus years later.

  22. The leaves that get stuck in my windshield wipers don’t feel special. The ones that flying free don’t feel rejected. I’m not a fucking leaf. While professionally I assume rejection, there’s that part of me always hoping to hear I’m the chosen one. It’s silly. Fucking silly. I follow my cats around for clues on how to handle it, the wound-licking that is. I think they have special antibiotics in their spit. There’s no what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger message here, I’m too damn tired. New words will have to come later. No one has an iron heart.

  23. Dicken’s parents put him in a poor house to live when he was what we today would call a child. Perhaps that’s why he was so prolific. And profoundly accurate concerning the human soul. The Writers’s real business is not very businesslike. And that tempers the rejection. Write about the bastards.

  24. A Youtube video on rejection? Like picking at a scab. Dig deep enough and long enough and you scar. Yeah, rejection for me is always a hit to the heart. It’s a cardiac infarction and your writing arm feels it. Just a bit more of the ego chipped away. But then I take a deep breath, go with the sadness for a time, then pick myself up and slowly gain strength. Okay, the next will be a yes. My next WIP will be the one that puts me over the top. I look into Pandora’s Box and there she is, sweet Hope with her beautiful promise of a better tomorrow. Yep.

  25. I don’t really want to discuss rejection. It just goes with the writing territory, like skinned knees, and how there’s always someone at the pub who is skinnier. It’s no big deal once you know you are good.
    Here is what I want to discuss: when did the bar for a debut novel
    get set so high?

  26. Bleep rejection.

    In one of those zany long-distance car race movies that were popular in the ’70s, an Italian driver tears down the rearview mirror to the horror of his co-pilot. “Whatsa behind me don’t matter!” he explains.

    Dwelling = loss of sanity

  27. Who are you all kidding? Humanity in general is made up of a bunch of rubberneckers. Train wrecks are ugly but we can’t help looking. And could you miss Betsy’s gangnam style?

  28. I got my agent so fast (13 minute turn-around time on the query email) that I got spoiled and overly hopeful. We are 6 months in and at current count, my agent & I have received 18 rejections (some positive and some crushing) from publishers. Things are starting to look grim. If only I knew whether 18 constituted a lot….I don’t know much about this business.

  29. I dunno, do I look bovvered? And I hate feeling like a douche because it doesn’t keep me up at night. So maybe we should talk about *that*. (I’m doing a Family Guy parody of Julia Roberts now: Meeeeee!)

  30. The wise woman in your head repeats calming words like: Rejection is part of the deal. It’s a business. It’s not about winning. You’re good enough. You tried so hard. Don’t be so hard on yourself. The work is worth doing. You write because it heals you. And life is too short to care so much when no one else does. But the other woman in your savage heart knows that in order to make that piece of shit for their dinner, you had to stab yourself over and over with a long handled knife, chop out your guts with an ax, and serve it all up with a nice Chianti. And worse, you’ve done this in an indifferent universe in which no one is particularly hungry and no one cares. Which of course makes this meal even more revolting, not to mention ridiculous and pathetic. Worse still, you know that you’re going to wake up tomorrow and do all again, and still no one is going to care. Why should they?

    So, Betsy. I can’t help wondering whether the writer part of you weeps with empathy when the agent part of you rejects another writer?

  31. Personal truth I have learned: How well I handle a rejection completely depends on how well I’m handling the rest of my life at that particular phase. Also, when I am at my most desperate, and I am most hoping for a ray of YAY, it is guaranteed to be “Thank you, no thank you.” There have been no deus ex machina in this girl’s life. Apparently the author of this story is all about the protag digging herself out of the “All Is Lost” moments.

    PS– The YouTube of my rejections wouldn’t show much. It’s me pushing a delete key, casually dropping junk mail into the recycle bin. Now, if you could somehow manage to record the Elm Street going on in my brain…that would be something.

  32. Oy vey. Do we have to go there? I pretend rejection doesn’t bother me, and I pull it off pretty well, to look at me. Then I surrender to a two or three week slump of procrastination and feeling fat. So go ahead an film me while I’m rejected. You won’t see a thing.

  33. First off, are you IN my brain? You’re marvelous.

    Secondly, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately, and here’s what I’ve decided. As tempting as it is to scream, smash things or curl up and wither post-rejection, it doesn’t help. And god forbid if someone sees/hears/reads it, because that makes it about 100x worse.

    I might be naive, but I like to think that there’s a potential good result from responding to rejection cheerfully and gracefully. As an agent, have you ever given someone a second look, or raised your estimation of them, due to their pleasant response to your rejection? And if not, isn’t it nicer to not have to witness the meltdown you caused firsthand?

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