This morning, I replied to Sarah Allen’s latest post, about how very many editors have been rejecting her stories:
I have been telling myself for years now that I’m good at rejection and that I’ve learned to take it like water off a ducks back, and I think relatively I probably do handle it okay, but my rejection/acceptance ratio is really starting to make me feel like a hack…
But the thing is, how do you really know you aren’t just lousy? I’m serious when I ask that question. Sure your family and roommates will say it’s good, but how do you know editors aren’t laughing at your short story and using it to line their garbage cans? Again, serious question. What’s the check? Is it the number of rejections?
Well, Sarah, my perspective may be a little skewed, because I definitely know how that feels. And instead of developing a thick skin, I think I’ve become a little unhinged. Nonetheless, for what it’s worth…
Rejection always sucks. They say you have to develop a thick skin, but I think that’s a myth. The best I’ve been able to manage is to behave as graciously as I can, before I slink home and dig into the Häagen-Dazs.
But you also should never let rejection cause you to question how good a writer you are. As long as a writer is measuring herself by those around her—including friends and editors—she will never be able to find herself or her true voice. It’s an amazingly short journey to writing competence, but beyond that, “good” is just what you want it to be. So excellence in writing ultimately comes from within, measuring your own writing against what you love to read. Excellence can’t come from without, measuring yourself against what you think some editor—who probably doesn’t even know you exist—might think of your stories.
That can be easier said than done. I find it helps if I have at least one rabid fan, whom I can think about when I start feeling down about myself. And that is what we call “irony.”