tr.v. re·ject·ed, re·ject·ing, re·jects
1 a : to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use <rejected the suggestion> <reject a manuscript>b : to refuse to hear, receive, or admit : rebuff, repel<parents who reject their children>c : to refuse as lover or spouse
2 obsolete : to cast off
3: throw back, repulse
4: to spew out
5: to subject to immunological rejection
(cited from Merriam-Webster)
During the latest episode of Walking the Room (#93), Greg Behrendt shares a story about finding a possible publisher for his memoir. He is assured that he will have an offer in very little time and he was soaring and showering “golden awesome” (as Gryphons do) on the world. He then gets the call. THE call. The publisher passed on his proposal.
I don’t exactly know how he felt, but after receiving several dozen rejection letters I can explain how I felt when they happened.
When I received the first rejection letter, it was like someone had taken a hearty dump on my soul then decided to break up the pieces with a meat tenderizer. It was as if my inner asshole was shouting “I fucking told you that you weren’t good enough.” Instinctively, I wanted to hurt myself. I went through my brain rolodex (my noggin hasn’t been upgraded to digital) with all of the possibilities – booze, meds, cutting, popping open a jar of cookie butter to devour, and angry hate sex came to mind.
When I’m not talking out loud or singing, that shit is going on in my head. My inner soundtrack queued up a steady playlist of depressing music. I remember that my vision actually blurred because I had stopped breathing for a moment and my body was screaming for me to focus on oxygen.
It all sounds melodramatic, but you all know the tired expression about feeling a pit in your stomach? When it’s happening it feels like a fucking chasm.
People react to rejection differently. Sometimes they say “fuck you” and keep going. Sometimes they think “well that was totally not worth my time” and just file it away in their Things to Furiously Masturbate to With Tearlube folder (everyone has one of those… right?). I eventually have a tendency to power down. I don’t want to do a damn thing. I don’t look for someone to share my problems with and that is incredibly stupid on my part.
My first instinct is to laugh. My first reaction to tragedy and pain is to laugh. When it finally sinks in I have to slide under the covers, go fetal, and stare at my desk. Everything happens internally. Even though my physical reaction is to do nothing, my brain spends all of that time berating me. If I had telekinesis, I would have destroyed everything around me.
But after that wore off, I went about my life. I did what I needed to do to ensure that I had a roof over my head and nourishment in my belly. Then the second rejection letter arrived. Lather, rinse and repeat. There were a good two weeks where my emotional roller coaster had essentially fallen so far off of the rails it has skidded into a nearby playground, exploded, and there were hypothetical people threatening to sue.
You would think that a girl who had so much experience as a child would react better to something like this. But here is the difference – when I was being rejected in my youth it was all surface. This hurt so much because I had put myself out there about something that I LOVED to do. I loved telling stories. I loved thinking about characters and situations and trying to explain things that I didn’t even understand myself. Writing was my safety net.
To be told that my safety net wasn’t useful was a pain that was so intense I wanted to hide. But… Wait… My place to hide wasn’t good enough (according to people that probably hadn’t even read my proposal)?
I vowed that I would never write fiction again. I didn’t ever want to experience it again.
After making that vow, I just blogged. I vented about my anger about things. When a character popped in my head I mentally eviscerated it. It took awhile for me to realize that was why I had become so miserable. My brain was so full of ideas, my subconscious would try to flesh out stories during dreams. Unfortunately, my imagination is fucked up so I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified and wouldn’t sleep.
For a total of five weeks, I averaged about seven hours of sleep each week. I became a husk of a person. My reaction to rejection became ME.
Then one day I laughed. Actual, full bodied shaking laughter that brought tears to my eyes not from sadness but from pure mirth. It had been so long since the last time I had laughed.
What was it that made me laugh? A rejection letter.
For weeks I spent my life not living. Not doing what I loved. I slipped into the mundane and wanted to cry every day because I didn’t want my life to just be that. I don’t think anyone ever aspired to be mediocre at best, but that was what I had become.
As I wiped the delighted tears from my eyes, I succumbed to the seduction of the keyboard. My fingers danced like they knew every letter that needed to be expelled from my body. As I continued to type I let out a sigh and looked up at the clock. I had written for three hours.
It was a triumph. But most important of all? I was EXHAUSTED. I slept uninterrupted for seven hours. I got up in the morning, stretched, kissed the top of my slumbering laptop and hopped in the shower. I went to work and my palms itched. I wanted to write again.
During my lunch breaks I have taken to opening up a word document and writing that one story for an hour.
I have 48 pages.
I have realized that the only thing that has been constant in my life is rejection. Originally, I thought that was bad. Now I think “at least it’s not herpes”.