If you decide you’re going to be a writer, rejection is something you need to get used to early on. And it’s not just the newbies who find their inboxes full of metaphorical pink slips. Madeleine L’Engle, international bestseller, went through a ten-year slump, in which she thought she might have to give up on her career, before someone finally gave A Wrinkle in Time a chance. Especially after a run of success, rejection is hard to swallow, and that’s where I found myself last week.
My problem is that I am a planner to a fault. And I had a goal for how much money I wanted to earn last week, which was dependent on the number of articles that were accepted. I got past the halfway point with acceptance after acceptance, and I felt pretty good. I mean, I was writing about obscure things like foot valves – I didn’t have a clue what a foot valve was before I wrote that article – and getting paid for them. I began to have that indestructible, I’m-never-going-to-get-rejected-again feeling. And then you can guess what happened.
And it wasn’t something weird like the foot valve that did it. It was an article on treadmills. I used to run on a treadmill every day. I’m familiar with the super-fancy models they have in gyms, as well as the simpler models for home use. My instructions were specific about keyword phrases and how often to use them, and there was a website for reference. I followed all the instructions to a T, submitted the article. . . then waited. I waited longer than usual, then finally received an e-mail that it needed revisions. This worried me somewhat, but I figured I’d fix whatever I needed to fix, then have done with it. Except my instructions were that it was exactly not the kind of article the requester wanted. Well, I followed all of the instructions, so how else was I supposed to write it? Not only that, but she didn’t want me to edit the article. She wanted me to start from scratch. At that point, I’d already invested a couple hours of my time without being paid, and it wasn’t worth starting over – especially when the requester refused to send me specifics about what parts of the article didn’t work for her.
At that point, I was behind on my weekly goal, and unless I planned to stay up a couple hours later than usual to make up for it, I wasn’t going to be able to catch up. Now, my goal was ambitious, anyway, but that’s how I am. Instead of having a meltdown, however, which is what I tend to do when I can’t force things to go by the plan, I accepted it.
Looking back, I realize now that the pace I was keeping was liable to blow up in my face eventually, and the rejection actually saved me from what could have been much worse. I could have stuck to my goal, added to my sleep deficit, and lost my temper numerous times as I tried to cram thirty hours worth of work into a twenty-four hour day. Instead, I took some much-needed rest, read the novel I’ve been neglecting, and picked up a new project with a much friendlier deadline.
Rejections can be disappointing, yes, but they can also be freeing. Mine gave me perspective on the balance (or lack thereof) between my writing and personal life. That doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to the next one, but when it inevitably comes, it’ll probably be time for another wake up call, anyway.