Recently, a friend of mine lamented on Facebook that she had just received another rejection to her agent query--and was clearly getting frustrated--a state to which I could relate. I made some sort of sympathetic comment about hanging in there, that every author experiences rejection, and to keep persevering. Or maybe even start a new project and set that one aside for a while. Platitudes perhaps, but sincerely meant.
Well, I was quite surprised when other people jumped all over my comment, saying that rejection should be celebrated and that I was in the wrong for expressing sympathy. That rejection wasn't supposed to be viewed negatively.
Now, I do understand about learning from feedback, no matter how negative, but celebrating rejection seems counter-intuitive. Giving yourself permission to take risks, permission to fail--these are things I believe in too. But permission to celebrate rejection and failure, as if these are the expected end products of a writer's journey--that I can never endorse. (Unless of course one wishes to remain unpublished, than by all means, celebrate rejection.)
I thought this was an isolated incident, until I read a piece today by author Bryan Hutchinson, who talked about being wary of the rejectionists:
"There’s a new bandwagon in the writing community, actually, it’s in nearly every community. The trend dictates that it’s okay to fail, in fact, it’s not just okay – you should expect to fail. And if you’re not careful you might jump on, tricked into not living your passion and not striving to achieve your goals."
Over the last few years I've had the good fortune of being able to spend a lot of time with other published authors--at conferences, at bookstores, or just over a drink--and one thing that still amazes me is how hard every single one of them had to work to get to where they are. I don't know a single author who doesn't have stacks of rejections and years--even decades--of toil, heartbreak, and anguish behind the image they present to the public, no matter how successful they appear now. Striving to get an agent, striving to get a publisher, striving to get the next contract, striving to develop a readership base...its all there.
Every author I know says persistence and determination (and yes, maybe a lucky break) are crucial. We may cope with rejection in different ways, but the common element seems to be to grit your teeth and move forward and just...keep...trying. (I'm not saying this has to be done without copious amounts of ice cream, or alcohol, or rejection letter bonfires...)
Simply speaking: There are no overnight successes. Just look at Jenny Milcham's fabulous Made it Moments blog and read through the inspirational stories there. No author's "Made it Moment" is the same, but the sense of perseverance is ever present. (Heck, check out Jenny's own story--she's incredible).
Rejection, yes it happens. It's painful, it hurts, its part of a writer's journey. LEARNING FROM REJECTION (or FAILURE)=GOOD THING.
But CELEBRATING rejection, as if rejection should be the end in itself?!... NO! That's when dreams die.