Rejection and criticism are two of the most frustrating and painful things a writer ever experiences. We can live through up-and-down sales, short-lived bouts of fame, and multiple false starts on works-in-progress. All-out rejection and blunt criticism, on the other hand, feel like getting stabbed in the heart with a splintery wooden spear.
I’ve stood in front of a classroom and had 24 of 28 students blatantly ignore me. Employers have pulled me aside and told me that the way I finished a project wasn’t good enough. People have questioned my motives, told me I was too fat, and rolled their eyes when I walked in the room. Yet nothing, nothing, compares to the feeling of getting a contest entry back and seeing that you didn’t make the points you needed to succeed.
Some say that I just need a thicker skin. Others declare I should be glad of the rejection, because it shows that I tried something. Even failure is an accomplishment, right? But knowing that and being confident I will do better next time does absolutely zilch for the tight, empty, sickly feeling of “I suck” that follows every writing flop.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who doesn’t struggle with feelings like these every once in a while. It’s inevitable. Being a creative person is like carving off a piece of your soul and showing it to strangers. When they don’t like it, or if they don’t think you carved it the right way, it hurts like all heck.
The one thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that if two people didn’t fall in love with this tiny piece of a book, there are two others somewhere who will think it’s the shiz. That and, honestly, another round of edits couldn’t hurt. So I guess there are really many things keeping me going. Besides, if I stop now, what was the point of any of the struggle? I could be mere inches from the finish line and not even know it.
I’d rather push harder now than let rejection hold me back.
Michelle prefers whiskey for all post-contest blues, but will gladly accept gifts of money, home-made cards, and/or terrible puns.