Rejection- I’ve now embraced it like my nom de plume. I acutely remember the pain of having to read the disappointing words appearing one after the other, and then fading out, as if the email from the latest publishing agent looked like some kind of menacing powerpoint presentation. But then, it wasn’t the first time. Yet, the nervous shocks and the twisting in my chest feels no different than the first time. Rejection teaches you a lot of lessons- it pushes you to strive harder, it makes you want to try and fail (even more), it makes you believe that you could do better (by some immeasurable standard- what is that standard, we’ll never know), it helps you pick yourself up. But, most of all, it gives you a feeling of unworthiness, a dissatisfaction of being yourself and what you enjoy doing. When I say I’m a writer, and I fail to get published once or another million more times, then my writing dissipates into the air akin to the world crumbling. It makes me think- “I can’t believe I worked this hard to receive this somber email. Again.”
What rejection really does to you is twist your perceptions of the world. Our hearts are naïve, our heads are rational- we’ve been in this drill our whole lives. So when we get responses saying “We loved your work, but it isn’t a good fit for us,” our rational brains are racing to make all those elaborate calculations, getting all caught up and exhausted in the process, and finally saying, “Dude, you’re a pathetic writer. Accept it and get this heartache over with already.” It’s a far-fetched statement, because it isn’t something that comes from the logical brain- it is a reflection of what you feel within yourself. Most of my writer friends claim that they anticipate the rejection, because they knew that they are just not cut out to be the 3 percenters who make it to the big plaques such as the New Yorker or The Atlantic or Granta. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. But you’re willing to try, and that’s what matters.
I’d been to elite book fairs, paying a grand sum on every occasion, meeting with agents, publishers and magazine reps, collected business cards and exchanged numbers, only to return with a heavier weight in my heart and a deep-rooted intimidation on my sleeve, because I knew that with my current work, there was no way I was going to get there. I would have to undergo some kind of radical transformation. Upscale my Alpha and Beta waves, read more important works, and fight the battle of the blinking cursor on an empty Word (or Pages) page. The fear is real, and truth be told, you need it. You sometimes need to be told that you’re not ‘good enough’, to be ‘better than the 97%’.
We plough through the empty pages and breathe through the pain.
We are writers. We are romantically entangled with our works, and naturally, we seek attention. If we just wrote for ourselves, we wouldn’t be aspiring to get published; heck, we wouldn’t even write blogs. We want glory, we want celebration, we want to be invited over to fancy book readings (the ones with the champagne at the end) to have coffee and converse on our ‘writing process’. We want the Pulitzers and the Nobels, and we want coveted titles such as ‘#1 Bestseller’ and ‘NY Times Bestseller’. But, as rejectees, we fall down, deeper into the ditch than we were when we first got in. But, the secret lies in making more aspiring mistakes- in never forgetting to crave for that attention, even for that microcosm of a second under the spotlight. In essence, we try to make the most of it while we’re in the damn ditch we know we can’t get out of soon enough. So what do we do? We write. It may be mediocre, it may be redundant, it may be unimportant and not address global issues of racism, casteism, globalism, or environmentalism, but we persevere and write. We want to cry our ideas out to the world. We plough through the empty pages and breathe through the pain. Why? Because that’s who we are. It gives us a sense of belonging. It makes us ‘whole’.
Pursuing the creative arts is an uphill task, and when you get there after getting out of the ditch, and scaling a gazillion mountains, you might plant your rejection summit flag. However, the important part is- You made it to the rejection. You put yourself out there, and you braved the climb. It doesn’t matter that the view isn’t spectacular, because you’re not going to be there long enough anyway. You have to descend, and you have to ascend again. You push yourself out of the womb, and start climbing. You don’t condemn your works to the confines of your study drawer, and I think that’s very telling of your indomitable spirit.
So, here’s to more rejection, gradual ascents and descents! I really, really hope we can make the climb.