vividly remember the first time I got pulled over after getting my
license. I had swerved erratically
at an empty intersection. The cop
thought I was drunk. Little did he know, I was a dork whose idea of Friday
night fun was having dinner with my best friend’s family, and really, I was just
indecisive over the best route to take home. I held it together while the officer was at my window, but, even
though I hadn’t as much as received a written warning, I burst into tears as
soon as he pulled away. However,
by the next day I had gone from crushed to indignant. How dare he think I had been drinking? Damn small-town cops just liked to pick
on teenage drivers! My
ever-supportive friends, of course, concurred and allowed me to rant and rave
nearly fifteen years of driving, I’ve been pulled over more than my share of
times. I’ve been issued tickets
and written warnings and even weaseled my way out of a few–the teacher routine
works nicely on occasion. Those
blue lights are never a welcome sight, but they no longer induce panic or
elicit instant tears or righteous anger, even on the few occasions I believed I wasn’t at
fault. I’ve even come to admit I’m
not the world’s best driver: I’ve got a lead foot (thanks, Bro), a bad habit of
tailgating (thanks, Dad), and a true Baystater’s belief that yellow means gun
it. Citations are an unpleasant
reminder that I have skills that need to be improved upon. I don’t like them, but I’m willing to
accept the truths they offer and learn from them. And I’m certainly not going to stop driving altogether just
because I’ve gotten a few.
am I sharing my unimpressive driving history in a writer’s blog? Because rejection letters are the
speeding tickets of the writing world.
When I first starting sending out my work in high school, being rejected
seemed like the end of the world.
Even the nice letters were hard to read. So after a half dozen tries, I stopped sending out my work
altogether. I wasn’t quitting, I
convinced myself, I just didn’t need the recognition; I wrote for myself and
that was enough. In theory, that’s
true; I will write long after my senile brain has anything worth offering the
world. But in reality, even the
most humble of us want an audience–a few people with whom to share our stories,
our imaginings, ourselves. So
having your work rejected is like being slapped with that first ticket. At first you’re scared and upset,
thinking, “maybe no one will ever like my writing.” Then you get pissed, deciding the agent
or editor who couldn’t even take the time to offer a useful suggestion is
clearly a pompous jerk who enjoys the power trip offered by rejecting new
writers. But after a few more of
these form letters find their way into the mailbox, which you now view with
about as much adoration as a plague-carrying flea, they begin to lose their
effect. Eventually, you even reach
a place where you can learn from them.
Perhaps your query letter lacks spunk, or your synopsis is truly a
suckopsis (a term coined by other writers, but one that truly speaks to me and
my crappy ability to summarize a four hundred page novel), or perhaps the first
novel you’ve completed and slaved over isn’t going to be the one that gets
published–yet. But these are
reasons to keep plugging, not signs it’s time to throw away the gel pens.
particularly likes being rejected.
In fact, for the most part, it sucks. On a good day rejection makes us righteously pissed: how
dare someone tell me I’m not good enough!
On a bad day it can strip us of our confidence and make us question our
worth: maybe I’m not good enough?
Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. You won’t always get the job you want, the guy you love, or
the approval you’re craving. You
won’t always even be able to win over the cute state trooper with your charm
and handsome good looks. But if we
can keep ourselves from despair and self-loathing, what we might get is a
thicker skin and a lesson in perseverance.