Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Five Minute Rejection and Other Tales of Success

I’m a bit of a mess. A quick survey of the Fortress of Righteousness where my writings are painfully birthed is all that’s necessary to confirm the veracity of that statement. There’s teetering stacks of badly dog-eared books, scattered bottles labeled with double-headed eagles, crumpled papers scrawled with nearly illegible genius, an unconscious woman whose name I don’t remember, various office supplies…the usual stuff. I’d hire a maid if I thought there was even a chance that she wouldn’t judge me and/or report what’s going on to the authorities.
Despite these sloppy tendencies I also carry a strong streak of Teutonic order and efficiency in my genes, the same traits that have done so much good for the world, provided you ignore certain selected portions of the last century. That ancestral memory must have been holding the stick when it came time to sell my second novel, because I decided to make a rigorous documentation of the submission process. I know, it’s almost unbelievably exciting, but please stay calm and fully clothed while I explain.
I kept a list of all the people and institutions blessed by my unsolicited attentions, making sure to include dates of submission and rejection. I felt a little like a scientist, gathering data, lying like crazy, having bad hair, all of it. Despite this veneer, I didn’t even have a hypothesis, if you can believe it. I was confident the gathered data would prove useful, somehow, and I was totally vindicated.
Like all the best stories, it started with an e-mail. Based on hard-earned experience in the blood-soaked trenches where the “submit and wait” wars are waged and the ultimate victory is slowly creeping closer can’t you tell, I expected to have to wait at least a week before the “no.” Wrong. Try 300 seconds. I’d apparently sent a profanity-filled query letter for an anarchistic novel that also featured numerous threats directed toward the United Nations to a publisher that specializes in “cozies” for elderly ladies.

Someone less wise than your humble narrator would probably conclude that the lesson here is “actually research the people you submit to, maybe swear less and cut down on the non-sequiturial menacing.” That’s the wrong lesson. Well, all right, it maybe has a small bit of validity to it, but there’s something bigger to draw from all this.
Rejection is good. Failure is good.
If you’ve never lost you’ve never tried anything hard, if you’ve never heard “no” you should have kept asking for more until it finally happened. This is pretty radical thinking for a society that increasingly wants to insulate everyone from any and all competition, but we’re writers and dreamers and undead pornographers, so if we can’t handle it, no one can. Success is built on a thousand failures, friends. Go out and start getting those failures.
It isn’t personal, you’re still that special miracle and exact center of the universe, so don’t get discouraged. My goal for my next novel is to get rejected one hundred times. I bet I fail to reach that goal.

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