As many writers do, I keep a lot of files. I’ve got files for book research, subdivided into time periods (Medieval, Elizabethan, earth 19th C., etc.), files for blogging ideas, files for book ideas, blogging research, publicity, conference information, and on and on. I’ve also (happily!) got a couple files for book contracts.
This plethora of paper just shouldn’t be so in our digital age, but I’ve been slow to scan so my file drawers are bulging. So much so, in fact, that my husband starting hinting about how nice it would be if I would go through my “stuff” to see if I actually need all of it. (To help me be clear on what he wanted, he accompanied his “hints” with annoyed sighs whenever he opened his file drawer and saw it bursting with my files. He’s good that way. :-))
So last night I got down to business trying to figure out what exactly I did have in there that was taking up so much room. There was one file in particular, packed to the gills and over three inches thick. This much be important I muttered to myself as I heaved it out of the drawer. I opened to the first item, a letter. “Dear Author, We thank you for submitting your manuscript but it’s not the right fit for us. Good luck placing it elsewhere.”
Cripes, what was I saving that for? I turned to the next item, a postcard. “Dear Author, We thank you for submitting your manuscript but it’s not the right fit for us. Good luck placing it elsewhere.” There were more letters. More postcards. Lots of them, hundreds of them, all with essentially the same message: We’re rejecting this manuscript.
Again the question: why in the world was I saving this? Many of the rejections were for a book I did eventually end up getting published. Many, but not all. I have lots of manuscripts that still haven’t found homes, and lots of rejections from authors and agents who don’t want them. I also came across a contract I had gotten from a very reputable agency to represent a manuscript that remains, to this day, unsold. The relationship with that agency unfortunately didn’t work out. So why am I saving these often very painful reminders of the tough world of publishing?
Perhaps my thinking was: I’ll show them. One day these manuscripts will get published and then I’ll flaunt these cold rejections, waving them in the air like a victory flag over the evil agents and editors who said it was no good! (Insert evil scientist laughter).
Or maybe I thought they’d make me stronger. See I could tell myself. Look at all of these rejections. You could wallpaper a ballroom with them but you haven’t let them get you down. You persevered and eventually got published.
Truth is, though, I have let them get to me. Each reject has taken me down a peg and caused me to have to lick my wounds, take a breath and regroup, vowing to go on. I’ve felt no infusion of willpower from the letters. They haven’t branded vows of revenge on my heart. And once I got published, I felt no sense of satisfaction or “I told you so” from reviewing these letters.
The thing about writing is that of course we want to get published. It’s the shiny gold star at the end of an arduous journey. But I don’t know any author who writes solely to get published. We write because we love writing The sense of victory and satisfaction and pride come from planting an idea in our minds, letting it germinate, and then giving it root on the page. If we get published then yea! Good for us. But for me a pile of rejection letters serves no purpose other than to make me momentarily depressed.
But what cures that depression? A big hungry shredder, which is exactly where those rejection letters are now. I feel so much better. 🙂