Day 164. “R” Word

It comes with the territory.  If you’re going to put yourself, your work out there, not everyone’s going to love it.  Not all the time.  It’s bound to happen, so the sooner we learn how to rejectiondeal with it, the better.


There.  I’ve said it.  And having suffered it, many times, I’ve got to tell you it’s not as horrible as you might think.  The pain is fleeting.  Really, it is.  And it leaves no lasting scars.  At least I don’t have any.

Maybe my skin is thicker than most.  In advertising, people don’t mince words.  There’s too much at stake.  And far too little time.

In my business there are dozens of people who get the chance to dump all over your work.  And trust me, they do. Not to be purposely hurtful.  Not to be nasty.  Not because they can.  Not most of the time, anyway.  Sure, there’s
always an S.O.B. in the crowd, but they’re really in the minority.

They (the good guys) do it because you may have missed important points.  Or because something you’ve written is factually incorrect.  Or because the ‘tone’ is wrong.  And because we get paid to get it right.

Sometimes, it’s because they just don’t like it.  Let’s face it.  The ‘approval’ process is subjective.  Much as we’d like to think we’re being objective, we’re not.  Not totally.  Our initial reactions are usually ‘personal’.  Real pros can then go back and assess based on a pre-agreed-upon brief, or certain criteria.  But our first impressions always count for part of the final ‘score’.

And the truth is, some people will like what you’ve done.  Some will love it.  Some will be completely ambivalent.  And some will hate it.

Which is exactly the way we are, when we’re looking at the work of others.  Whether it’s writing, painting, illustration or photography.  Whether it’s a play, a movie or a television show.

Do you like everything you read or see?  I sure don’t.  I’ve walked out of movies before they’re over.  I’ve stopped reading books after the first couple of chapters.  I’ve seen paintings I’d never, in a million years, want hanging on my walls.  I’ve gone to exhibits and wondered, “How’d he ever get this famous?”

So why should I assume everyone will like everything of mine.  Or should.  We’re all entitled to our own opinions.

Our fear of rejection stops a lot of us from even trying, in the first place.  And I find that a shame.  I do get it.  We put so much into everything we do.  So much of ourselves.  So it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been slapped.  But trust me, we haven’t.  And good can, and usually does, come of it.  Like most temporary set-backs or ‘defeats’, there are lessons to be learned.  In the end, it just makes us stronger. And better.  Our work gets better.   Which is the objective.  Correct?

In the very early days of writing my book, a friend suggested I get the opinion of a former publisher he knows.  I only had a couple of chapters written, but he felt it would be good learning for me.  I was shaking as I sent it off.  As it turned out, he really liked it; and gave me some very valuable suggestions.

He also said he’d like to send it to a literary agent he knew.  An important agent, in Toronto.  It was beyond my wildest dreams.  I was beside myself.  She rejected it, without even seeing it.  She wasn’t interested in the ‘topic’.  I forced myself not to take it personally.  And I forced myself to keep writing.  I also re-examined my motives.  Why I wanted to write this story.  I looked at it, as an opportunity to make sure I was really committed to the idea; and that it had merit.

Several more chapters into it,  I met a woman at a pilates class I was taking once a week.  We were both there early one day, and started talking.  She asked what I did and I told her.  She said she’d been a small press book publisher, before she retired.

“Divine intervention”, I thought.  When I told her I was writing a book, and what it was about, she referred me to a publisher friend.  Rejection Number 2.  She was ‘into’ women’s issues; and while one could argue my book definitely touched on issues affecting women, it wasn’t nearly enough for her.  Too much on the periphery.

For a moment, I despaired.  I’m human, after all.  And just as quickly I got over it.  No one had said the book was lousy.  Simply wasn’t ‘right’ for them.  My mother used to have this expression:  “For every pot there is a cover”.  I believe there is an agent out there, who will love my story.  We just haven’t connected yet.  After my first two experiences I decided to concentrate on finishing my book before looking any further.

I also believe there’s a publisher for me out there, as well.  If not, I’ll self publish.  In fact, I may do it regardless.

That’s how determined I am.

Because I believe in my book.  I believe the story will resonate with the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of men and women who already have, currently are, or will, experience what I did.  And reading about what I’ve gone through, and how I dealt with it, may help and inspire them.

Now you know how I deal with rejection.  I accept it.  I learn from it.  I move on.

What about you?

23 thoughts on “Day 164. “R” Word

  1. This will be too long I apologize in advance. I’ve hardly written about the subject. It will be messy and painful I apologize for that too. And rambling. Childish and nonsensical. You can delete it if you want! Seriously I’m “thinking it through” here and will rewrite it in some form I guess cause I’m learning as I write it “freehand” haha:

    The science of sales, it’s a numbers game. I’ve never talked about or really written about my daily writing submissions and activity and “plans” to overachieve on my “quota” nor my residency and fellowship application aspirations. It’s a daily thing here. I’m rejected every day. It’s part of my skill set- to be motivated and encouraged by rejection. It’s also “clinical” and I embrace it wholeheartedly- but that’s another story and a “problem we like to have”. Okay, enough with the quotes. And to all concerned: I’m done with the profanity for the year!

    Here goes:

    Currently my success ratio for my efforts is about one acceptance for every ten submissions and I think has gotten worse lately haha But I’ve been told by some who I respect that’s good. Okay, what do I know? The first quarter of this year I’ve hit the grown running and am killing myself softly and challenging myself more than ever, with artist colony/residency/fellowship applications which are most wonderfully grueling and I’m most passionate and dreamy about and what I want most. And my ongoing smaller submissions. But the former are the “big sales”. The rest of the writing world or any success I could ever have books etc means nothing to me. If someone demanded they publish and market my full length book I’d let them. Or “managed” me haha But they’d have to do most of the work! (other than the writing of course). HAH! I really could live a lifestyle of simply working and writing in colonies and under fellowships anonymously for the rest of my life and be happy For now anyway.

    In a cabin please.

    And make and serve all my food. Indie press and university-type and journal submissions are the other activity and I get regularly published (individual pieces) and rejected daily. I laugh. And get mad. And keep going! They’re not particularly well read (which I’ve written about) and often act quite hoity-toity and annoy me too, but are a “street cred”, roll up your sleeves kind of thing. And I learn a lot about what I sardonically call “that world’. But for example, the National Endowment of the Arts awards fellowship money once you reach certain benchmarks, how many poems have been chosen in a quantifiable submission process etc so it’s certainly a best practices kind of thing.

    And a sales and strategy and really sophisticated game to play.

    REJECT REJECT REJECT is 90% and like I said pretty much getting worse now (I tell myself but really not cause I’m getting more savvy at playing), and my strategy has changed for this year to push more in my sales funnel and get more stuff closing small, big whatever it is. Greeting cards,sure! Laundry detergent bottles, hell I don’t care! I’m resubmitting everywhere that published me last year (and they’re accepting me again which is an interesting an odd enough turn, and it all counts). I’m trying to keep the flow. Activity matters, no matter the shape or form. And it all keep me motivated. This demonstrates why I often proclaim that “blogging” and virtual self-promotion is of little and only some value but part of the problem.

    My big sales will hit.

    I’ve been wildly successful with these mechanics in former lives. Under wildly different and definitely more “cushy” circumstance for sure. Before it was financial data and sold the hell out of it. Big old hot dog I was. And dressed much better too! Different medium, same science, right?

    Blah blah

    So I’m having a full-circle and learning experience here as you got not only my muse going (which I always appreciate and you’ve done before) but got me to thinking of “skill sets” and how they can really can apply to whatever we do. Especially when we’re deliberate and razor-sharp about it. So thanks for the indulgence as I never talk about it, I just do it. I believe the “sales” and work speak for themselves.

    And as all my dumb-ass rejections come in my email daily, and I sigh and try not to cry, and have to keep my chin up, and my funnel runs dry, and I have to find new stuff, and I get up off the floor and keep things going: I’ll be appreciating you!

    (those couple of last sentences are so POORLY written haha)

    • No apologies. How can sharing how you feel take “too long”? Thank you for this. I’m honoured. I’m very much the same as you. Rejection also motivates me. It brings out the fighter in me. As it clearly does in you. And of course your background in sales would come in very handy, here. You have to be resilient and persistent to succeed. You have to keep challenging yourself by raising the stakes on yourself. To keep increasing your targets. Same as athletes do. Run longer. Run faster. Jump higher. It’s what creates champions.

      We aim to write more. Write better. Sell more. Engage more.

      For the record, 1 in 10 is very good! Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to improve on it. I’m just saying, it’s very good. I’m going to start trying to sell ‘stories’. It’s my goal for 2012. I hope I do as well. It’s never been easy. But now, in this economy, the way all publications are suffering. It’s even tougher. If you feel your ‘track record’ has been getting worse lately, I am sure it is nothing to do with you or your work. It’s the economic realities THEY are being forced to deal with. I’m not just saying this to make you feel better. It wouldn’t work, even if I was. They’re clinging to life. They have to figure out how to survive in this online world. They have to come up with a viable business model. The old one ain’t working. And in the meantime, we suffer.

      But don’t stop trying. Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop submitting. I’m not going to. Just be prudent about the whole ‘overachieving’ thing. This world isn’t quite as cut and dried as the world you’ve come from. Which doesn’t mean I think we should stop setting goals or having dreams. In sales, as in business, the setting of goals and then the re-setting (overachieving) of goals is clinical. Unemotional. And when you’re good, as you were, truly achievable. Don’t know if we can measure success the same way in what we’re doing. Or expect it to work the same way.

      Don’t know what to say about the artist colony/residency/fellowship goals you have. I don’t know how that works. I imagine it’s always been tough. But so worth striving for. That’s a dream you should NEVER give up on. I see you thriving in such an environment. As it is, some days I’m amazed. Because you publish a piece. And suddenly, you’re publishing another. And some days, even another. I don’t know how you do that. And I think in the right set of circumstances, like with a fellowship or in a residency, you’d become more and more and more prolific. That’s the intent of these opportunities, isn’t it? To live in a world without the every day pressures that stifle creativity. To live in a world that’s all about allowing creativity to flourish.

      And I have no doubt you’ll get there. That IS where your successful background in sales comes in so handy. You have the ‘tools’ to push for it. To crank yourself up, like you’re getting ready to go into battle. To psych yourself out. Pump yourself up. And that, and your talent, will make it happen. And in the meantime …

      Ongoing activity absolutely matters. You are totally right. And that ongoing stuff we do every day, “the greeting cards, and laundry detergent”, and in my case, the ads and the websites are necessary. The bills have to get paid, etc. But at the same time, we keep our eyes set on the ‘big’ prize. In your case the fellowship. For me, right now, finishing and publishing my book.

      It makes me very happy to know I sometimes get your muse going. Thank you for telling me. You inspire me, too. And as for your last couple of sentences, I don’t think they’re poorly written at all. What you’ve said means a lot. Thank you.

    • oops. Make that my goal for 2013. I’m not one to dwell on the past 🙂 Sometimes my fingers move more quickly than my brain.

      • Well in comments I don’t care as much you know but it really can take forever and ever and ever to finish a real piece my head hurts an awful lot. On another note though, the whole self-taught and learning thing that we’ve often discussed makes me think I ought to write more about my “process” cause I did learn a lot here. I mean, for myself you knjow. Because I do write in a vacuum and isolation. (other than virtually).

        Yes the residencies like MacDowell Colony and Yaddo , where they basically are paying you to go there from a couple of weeks to a couple of months and put you up in cabins/studios with other writers, artists and serve you etc are meant to give you idyllic conditions in which to create. For me the benefit is being with others, learning from them and the inspiration. As well as getting out of isolation, and the hell out of Virginia!

        I do well on “trips” haha And many of them are in natural, isolated and beautiful settings too. Very cool. You ought to check it out! (like Macdowell here): Many, many famous authors and writers have histories there.

      • Of course you’re right. Rambling is fine in comments, not so much in a ‘real piece’. I think you should write about your process. You do learn a lot. I’m finding that with this blog. I am writing about things I’ve never even consciously thought about before. And I am amazing myself at what I’m learning about myself. Nothing like a little self analysis 🙂 But seriously, I think it’s important. I totally believe my writing is improving because of it. And I am sure it would have the same benefit for you. We all write in a vacuum and isolation. It’s the nature of the beast, I think.

        Yes, the group setting is very inspiring; and you do learn a lot. For a few years back in Montreal I stopped working in ad agencies and I was doing advertising and PR in the fashion industry. Although I was practising the same craft, I wasn’t working with people who ‘spoke’ my language. And I found I missed it after a while. We all get each other. And we learn from each other. And we absolutely inspire one another.

        I had an experience somewhat like that when I went to Bequia. I had friends who were there for the winter and they invited me to visit. I had just started to write my book and they said it was the perfect place because really, there’s nothing to do there. Other than swim and sail. My friend is a writer and he was working on a book as well. His girlfriend’s an artist. And there I was. The creative energy was bouncing off the walls. We never intruded on each other’s space, but we fed off each other. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. And in my short, 10-day visit I wrote 3 chapters.

        I am going to check out Macdowell. It’s never occurred to me to try something like this. Sounds amazing. I’ve had some breakthroughs on my book and I’m trying to figure out if I have to dump it all and start over fresh (only 2 chapters left to write) or if any of it is salvageable. I can’t do it here. Too many distractions. And I’ve been trying to figure out where to go. This sounds like it could be the perfect solution. All kinds of talented people around to maybe offer some advice. And give inspiration. WOW! Not that I can just snap my fingers and expect to be accepted. There’s that damn “R” word again. But I can sure try. Thanks for the tip.

        Have you been to any yet?

  2. True, Fransi! And I feel like mine is less the fear of rejection and more the fear of disappointing someone. I read the brief, I did what they asked . . . and it’s not what they want. Being a mind reader is tough business!

    • You can’t think of it as disappointing someone. Nobody gets it right all the time. And even interpreting a brief is open to interpretation. We can be our own worst enemies. Relax and enjoy what you do. You’re good at it. And take the criticism for what it is.

  3. I’ve never been able to deal with rejection, and in fact, often take that to extremes. I was reminded of such a way when I was viewing another blog I follow today where the blogger posted an essay she wrote in high school and commented on all the grading the teacher did to it. I don’t think I EVER looked over a single graded paper I ever got back. I’d peek just enough to see what my grade was, and then tuck it away into a folder never to be seen again. I couldn’t bear to see what all the teacher found wrong with it. While I haven’t been in school for 16 years now, I’m afraid I’d probably still be the same way today…. not that it keeps me from throwing out my stuff for the world to see on my blog, but then again, nobody comes over there to grade my work… 🙂

  4. It took me a long time to understand the difference in personal and professional rejection. I’m still a work in progress and I still need to remind myself that getting over the worry of letting down someone is part of it as well. There are many things to learn, positive things, from rejection, if you are receptive to it.

    • Yes there are. It doesn’t have to be a negative experience. And as far as I am concerned it NEVER means you’re letting anyone down. NEVER.

  5. Advertising is hard, I find that if I create a terrific ad and devote a lot of energy, that will be the client that hates it so I then turn around and just throw something together and wow that is the one they love, bad grammar and all. I brush off rejection as best I can, still trying to not eat things get to me personally, but that is hard to avoid doing that.

  6. Wow, Fransi – you really go us going with this one… (especially Pete) haha! This is all out of my realm in the professional writing/publishing sense. Personally, however, having built a layer of insulation between myself and rejection has made me grow into a much stronger, softer and better person all around. We do, hopefully, what we do because we love it. It’s our passion…our calling. Also, the sometimes difficult process is part of the journey so we might as well accept and try to enjoy/learn from it. I think all of us at some point, especially when we think we are getting closer to our goal, make the mistake of putting all of our energy on the end game. We try to speed it up and then find ourselves hitting a wall because we left behind our center…our core. This is what makes the journey seem hard and endless. It’s really not the rejections.

    • I think it can be both. We do get ourselves into trouble by trying to get ahead of the natural order of things. I agree with that. But rejection doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with timing. If the guy who’d read the first couple of chapters of my book had waited until I’d finished it before trying to get his agent friend interested, the outcome would have been the same. She wasn’t interested in the topic, period. Regardless, we have to learn how to take it in stride.

      • Yes, I agree we need to learn how to take rejection in stride. I’m not so sure I agree though that rejection doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with timing. It could be the marketplace has changed since your friend initially submitted your first couple of chapters to that literary agent. She might see it differently the second, third or fourth time around. I’ve also heard some writers who have successfully self-published and then had their work go on to be published by a major publishing house. I know you will be successful regardless of the method that gets you there.

      • I think sometimes it may and sometimes not. And she might change or mind and she might not. It actually doesn’t matter. The way I look at things is, she’s not the only agent in town. I only used that particular instance of an example. For the better part of a year I’ve been leaning toward self publishing anyway. These days you have to have an e-book and if you do print, it has to be on Amazon. Unfortunately all those wonderful independant book sellers I love are folding one after another. So agents and publishers are going the way of the dodo. Authors now do readings on YouTube and attend book clubs via Skype. The world has changed pretty dramatically.

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