I received two rejection emails yesterday from agents I sent query letters to. Strange that they came on the same day- I sent one of them ages ago, and figured it to be one of those "silence equals no." The other one was from kind of a superstar agent, her clients include my favorite author, so I really was expecting a "no" from her. It used to be I'd get really upset after a rejection. I'm not counting-at least not in my head, I have a list here somewhere... but I didn't freak out yesterday at all, and I think about that.
I'm not one of those people who's going to save all her rejections and make a collage of them when she finds an agent/gets published. I'm not an angry person. I don't think that an agent telling me she/he isn't interested in my book is a personal attack. Really, truly, if they can't get excited about my project, why would I want them representing it? I need an agent who loves my books and thinks they're worth some energy.
But I'd be lying if I didn't say that sometimes, okay more often than that, I wonder if their rejection is less "the project isn't right for me" and more "eh, it's just not that good." And I wonder what that should mean for me. Am I just writing and working and eventually the time will be right? Or am I writing for myself?
I think this. I do not write The Great American Novel. I know my prose is nothing like Cormac McCarthy. What I write is a character. I write her, and I want you to be plopped down in her world. She's going to tell you all about herself. Sometimes that's in a story about her past, sometimes you're just going to see it in the patterns she's set up for herself. You're going to see her stumble and see how or if she gets up.
I think that's important.
I think we all have our Big Issue. Our reoccurring problem that surfaces all through our life. We could make tee shirts. They would say things like, "Why doesn't my mother love me?" or "I'm not good enough" or "I'm waiting for Life to happen for me" or "Victim" or "When will you notice how special I am?" We wear these shirts everyday. They get so dirty. Sometimes we'll take them off and wash them. The result of that is they are cleaner and softer, and more comfortable to wear. They are like skin.
But I think sometimes we have an occasion to look down and read the writing on our shirt, and then choose to confront what it says about us.
This is what I do for my characters. I give them the chance to see their Big Issue and do something about it. And, certainly, things don't always work out just how they want them to. Life doesn't really happen that way. But there is something in the learning. Something that makes us stronger and more capable. Better equipped to succeed next time.
And so, on rejection, maybe you don't notice how special I am. Maybe that's not the point. Maybe the point is that I know it. Maybe I've been looking at my dirty shirt and, instead of thinking it's my story's one-sentence synopsis, have realized it's my opportunity.
Listening to: Sleeping At Last