Today a friend of mine who has written plays and stories for decades made a Facebook announcement. He had received his 50th rejection. It was with humor and a grain of salt he commemorated the occasion, and it drove home for me the importance of having the right attitude about your setbacks.
I received my first rejection letter when I was in middle school. I had written a short story and sent it to the editors at Cricket magazine, which I was completely obsessed with for about five years of my life. I even knew who the magazine editors were, and that they included Lloyd Alexander, who was also often the anonymous pen behind the column “Old Cricket Says.” At the time Alexander was my favorite author (another obsession years in the making), and so it was with great excitement I sent in a story about a magical tree. They sometimes published stories from readers, and I thought I had a decent shot at it.
I was promptly rejected.
I would not submit another piece of writing for nearly 10 years, when I was in college, at which time I would receive other rejections. But I was much better equipped to handle it at that age, having had a wealth of creative experiences by then that solidified my resolve.
Giving up after that childhood rejection was reasonable — for a child. I haven’t quite reached the point of sarcastic jubilance like my friend (happy 50th!) but I have grown some thicker skin. Of course rejection will always be disappointing, or frustrating, but given time it also opens up the question “How can I do this better?”
In the end, of course, we have no control over who accepts our writing or who rejects it. The only thing within our power is whether we quit and let it get under our skin, or whether we use it as an entry point into more rigorous self-editing and the perfection of our craft.
Right now I’m preparing to send my latest screenplay out in the spring festivals, I’m ready to receive some rejection. I also hope for some success. But I’m most excited that I have gotten to this point of having a screenplay that I’m reasonably proud of and can finally put to rest. I’ll be proud of myself for taking a risk and submitting it. And whether or not I rack up my own 50 rejections anytime soon, I’ll at least have taken control of my efforts and not allowed some nagging doubt keep me from it.