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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Afraid of Rejection? Who Isn't?

Afraid of Rejection?
Who Isn’t?

By Ruth Logan Herne

From the time of our first play date, (definitely not called that when I was in knickers!) when some pompous three-year-old turned her back, snubbing our toys, leaving us out of the inner circle of the sandbox, rejection has been a part of our life.

At age three, most of us don’t have the savvy to shrug our shoulders and walk away, unperturbed.

Unfortunately the same is true at thirty.

I think it gets better around forty.

Fifty? Piece of cake….

But, here’s the deal. Rejection is a part of life. Not one of our favorite parts, but nothing we can’t move beyond, either.

The trick is, don’t take it personal. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done. When we hear ‘no’ in response to our work, our queries, proposals, manuscripts, agent pleas, etc., we visualize “I don’t want you.” Or, “I don’t like your stuff.” Or, worse yet, “I don’t like your stuff, I don’t want you, why on earth did you bother me, don’t quit your day job….”

Top salespeople are taught to view rejections as stepping-stones to the next opportunity. Everyone hears a certain percentage of ‘nos’ to every ‘yes’. It’s like kissing frogs to find a prince. There’s no getting around it; might as well pucker up and get it over with.

As a top salesperson in Tupperware years ago, I came upon a situation where a hostess was expecting my husband to demonstrate the party. I’d just had a baby, and Dave was kind enough to fill in so that my party count wouldn’t suffer while I re-gathered my strength. (I had a three-year-old, a two-year-old and a newborn…. Re-gather strength??? Yeah, right….!)

When I showed up, the woman was livid. Rude. Treated me like an outcast. I was not only hurt and confused, but taken aback by the strength of her feelings. Her reaction made me wonder just why she was so distraught that I’d arrived to demonstrate the party, instead of the happily married, father of three she was expecting. Hmmm…..

Leaving the party, I wished her well, and hoped I’d never see her again.

I almost didn’t.

Later that week she attempted suicide. I found out afterward it was her third attempt.
Here’s the point: I had nothing to do with the rejection. She was at a bad time in her life, had no faith, no strength to hold on to. Her anger and rejection weren’t aimed at me; the feelings were there and I got in the way.

I’m not suggesting that your agents and editors are contemplating their own early demise, but anyone can have a bad day, or a bad week. I know plenty of people who have bad months. But, regardless of that, your work, once in front of them, gets your name out there. Gives them a chance to say no. And the opportunity to say yes.

You don’t know if you don’t ask. And I know it’s not easy. I’ve got the Stephen King-type nail in the wall, holding my steady stream of rejections. We’re getting close to needing a longer nail! Either that, or a second one. (sigh)

But that’s okay. With each one I learn more about the market. Its terminology, its idiosyncrasies, the inner sanctums of editors and agents. How they network amongst themselves. Oh, yeah, I’m learning.

And knowledge is powerful. Your queries and proposals become tighter, more targeted. Lurking on computer loops, you learn the names of insiders, reading and learning, figuring out whom to approach in a sea of random names published in a magazine that may or may not have done its homework (often, not). And you keep asking until someone says yes. Or, maybe. Show me more. Send me a complete.

It takes baby steps to learn to walk. Don’t be afraid to let go of the couch and solo on your own. When that toddler falls, he may cry. But the fall doesn’t keep him down. He dusts his diapered butt, grabs the corner of a table and hauls himself back up, because failure isn’t in his vocabulary.

Don’t let it be in yours. Ask, ask, ask. Take the time, precious as it is, to market yourself and your work. What’s the worst that can happen?

Someone says no. But, then, they’re one of thousands. Believe in yourself, in your work and in your worth as a writer. Don’t be afraid to learn the hard way, as long as you learn.

Postage is a small price to pay for the chance for success, and pride is replenishable. Take the chance. Get it out there. Take a few hits for the team.

Then listen for the phone. It could be that editor or agent, wanting to know more. Or an assistant, requesting further copy. You never know.

But I guarantee you, if you don’t take the chance, risk the rejection, you’ll never know the joy of the phone call.

‘Cause no one’s got your number.

Ruth Logan Herne loves God, family, country and sometimes dogs. When she’s not hard at work torturing young children, she writes wonderful stories of faith, family, hope and inspiration. She loves chocolate and has discovered Starbucks caramel/mocha frappuccinos. Watch out.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ruth!!

    I found this by googling your name. I woke up this morning wanting to give you my long overdue thanks.

    Ages ago you encouraged me to keep writing and polishing and submitting - to risk the rejection just as you posted about here.

    I think you had offered a really great critique in a contest, and even (gasp!) signed your name. When I contacted you to thank you, you invited me to send you more. (I think. Oh my gosh it's been awhile!)

    Anyway! A Love for Larkspur is a Christian chicklit that Capstone Fiction is publishing.

    I'm happily at work on my next one. I generally don't submit, or reach out, and it was all God that you even had the opportunity to speak into my life, and that you took it. Thank you. How nice to see that here you are, still doing that.

    I appreciate your positive words, your input, and the reminder to keep putting myself out there.

    Thank you so much, Ruth.

    -Kelsey Kilgore

    ReplyDelete

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