I don’t know one writing friend or acquaintance who hasn’t received a form rejection letter. You know what I’m talking about. A few flatly worded sentences along the lines of “Not what we’re looking for at this time, but keep trying. Other agents (or editors or contest judges) might feel differently.” Writing instructors tell us we shouldn’t take those rejections personally. Agents and editors who speak at writing conferences agree. To which I say, fair enough. After all, how personal can something be when it begins with the heartfelt greeting, “Dear Writer.” (Your actual name might be inserted in place of “writer,” but rest assured, it’s a database program doing it. Thousands of writers have received that exact same letter, and I mean exact: word-for-word, including the punctuation.)
I could easily spend a few pages here going over the types of rejections I’ve gotten over the years: some cold, some neutral, and some quite encouraging. Unfortunately, even the latter are, in the end, rejections. But not to worry. These sources weren’t rejecting me as a person, they were only rejecting my work, right? The problem with that theory is, my work and my person are actually one in the same. My characters are all melting pots of my own thoughts and ideas. My feelings. How is that not personal?
The sad truth is, rejection is a part of life for everyone: students applying for grad school, workers sending out resumes, lonely people searching for that all-elusive soul mate. And yes, being rejected is personal. Very personal. The trick is to corral that intense feeling of personal rejection and transform it into a strength. For me, that translated into my creating this blog with Julia. For you, it might be continuing to submit your work the conventional way until it finds a home. Although rejection in itself is personal, admitting that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.