on rejection and other fun things

Everyone has to deal with rejection. It’s one of those unfortunate facts of life. You interview for jobs you don’t get. You apply for schools you don’t get into. I auditioned for orchestras a number of times when I was in my early twenties, and I can tell you at what point in each failed audition that it started to go south. (For example, When I was maybe 20, I went to an audition in which 40 people were trying to fill 2 slots, so the odds weren’t real high to begin with. But I practiced my ass off and went into that audition and not only nailed the piece I’d prepared, but that piece had been a favorite of the orchestra director. It was a Vivaldi concerto, I think. He was so impressed he handed me the toughest sight-reading sample, some Mendelssohn concerto with a melody written several lines above the staff, and all knowledge of how to play in 7th position or wherever this thing was written flew right out of my head. The orchestra director said, “Come on, you know this one.” Though Mendelssohn has turned out to be the scourge of many an orchestra audition for me—this happened again a couple of years ago, actually—I did not know this particular piece of music, and my brain completely shut down. Thus, rejection.)

This is kind of lame, but I like competition reality shows. At least the contestants have to have a skill. And there are always a couple of contestants who, when they start failing—making mistakes, winding up in the bottom of the rankings—they completely implode. Which I think says something about the nature of rejection. The rejection itself is not necessarily a testament to your skill (or maybe it is, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume some talent) but skill certainly comes into play with how you deal with that rejection. You can let it get to you, let it control how you work from that moment on, let it be an excuse to stop trying. Or you can pick yourself up, try again, and do things better the next time.

Getting rejected for anything is deeply unpleasant, to put it mildly. I’ve gotten a few writing rejections recently, and I find it frustrating, but I think the real key is to remember that one agent/publisher may not like something that another loves, or I wrote something that is good but not right in tone or theme for the person I submitted it to, or what have you. My method is to take a day to mourn the opportunity, then to get back to the writing, to figure out what, if anything, needs to be fixed in the manuscript, to send it back out again. I can only hope my persistence is rewarded.