Be it ever so humbling...there's nothing like a fiction rejection or a lost fiction contest to bring a kittenish writer to her knees.
It's as if a giant, muscle-bound Universe stood toe to toe with me and said, "Me, Tarzan! You--suck!"
I guess that's what I get for dissing Henry James and Virginia Woolf.
What is it about losing a fiction contest that makes you feel like you barely qualify for a job that involves a large fryer and hairnet, much less a job writing prose that large groups of serious people would actually spend time reading? What is it about receiving that bland brush-off from an anonymous editor, that "thanks-for-sending-but-your-work-is-more-fit-for-the-recycle-bin-than-our-esteemed-publication" letter which completely drains a writer of confidence, will and anything akin to moral integrity?
(Could it be that writers love to dramatize? Naaaawwww...)
Here is my take on writing and rejection:
One reason a recent fiction rejection hit me between the eyes is because I have not been prolific as of late. In 2004-2005, I wrote up a storm and had lots and lots of stories out. I sort of became inured to rejection. While I looked forward to hearing from editors, I churned out more stuff to keep the momentum going. And, hey, if one editor rejected me, another story had a shot. Hope sustained me. The thrill of the chase motivated me. And, eventually, all of the fiction did get published. Right now, I have few stories in the hopper, and the one I did send probably could use more work. Thus, one rejection pretty much stops the whole process cold.
Moral of story: Don't put all your literary eggs in one basket. Work on multiple projects at once, and something's bound to work. And the energy carries you from one work to the next. If one story or chapter isn't working out, something else might. And when that something else works, chances are you can return to the stalled prose and find that the energy has shifted, the wheel has unstuck from the mud.
I think it would also help to be able to tolerate great tumblersful of whiskey during this whole process or take up smoking unfiltered Gauloises, but that's another tip for another day. But first, I should order this book. And always, always keep the day job.
Fellow writers, hear my clarion call! How do you handle rejection?
(To end on an up-note, I just received an e-mail notifcation that my books One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson, Auschwitz by Laurence Rees and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai have just shipped! Solace, courtesy of UPS.)
And another post-script tip on rejection: It hurts much worse to be rejected by a second-rate publication than a first-rate one. So, screw it, Fates, I'm going for the gold. Writer-buds, what publications do you deem worthy?