I decided at the end of 2017 that I needed desperately to build my resilience in the face of multiple rejections. It needed to go seriously up, and I needed to re-grow my armour that had gradually rusted and fallen off over the years, making me more vulnerable and as a result, more afraid and less likely to submit my short stories or to try to talk myself out applying for jobs by saying “Oh, there’s no way I’m qualified enough” and “they would never want me.”
Some rejections were so incredibly demoralizing that my mental health suffered a great deal, while others kind of rolled off my back and weren’t such a big thing. I probably had a breakdown over a handful of the rejections, but had to learn how to pick myself up and dust myself off to try again.
More than anything, this entire process helped me get into the practice of applying for things and just generally going for it when the niggling voice in the back of my mind was saying not to. It is a continuous practice thing and something I suspect it takes years to master, but I learned the value of taking that impulse and saying “Screw it–I’m going to go for this!” And I think that in and of itself has a lot of value in the sense that so many times in life, we use all of these excuses to hold us back because we’re afraid of rejection, or we think no one will possibly say ‘yes’ to what we’re trying for. The grim reality is that for dozens upon dozens of the things I applied for, I did not even receive a response and had to assume a rejection, but that’s the status quo these days.
I think it also taught me that no matter what, some rejections are going to burn, plain and simple. Some are going to hurt a lot more than others, and that’s to be expected, because it has to do with how much weight we attach to something. When I was doing my best to deal with a particularly devastating blow from one rejection where it seemed so certain that things would work out in my favour, a wise person asked me why I was treating this as if it were the last opportunity for me ever, and that it was my last chance, and that without this one, I had lost everything and that there would never be a chance like this one when the reality became that I did get several other chances after that rejection at other places.
I think part of the reasoning for that in my mind was that because it’s so difficult to go through this entire process of the applying for things, the asking, the hoping, the waiting, that when you finally do get somewhere, such as with an interview, you’re expecting “Okay, I’ve really expended quite a lot of effort into this process. I am hoping it pays off.” But this experience taught me that you can put your heart and soul into something and that there is never a guarantee of any sort of payoff. And that’s just the way it is. I had to learn that lesson in one of the most difficult and brutal ways possible, and I think that as it relates to writing, that’s why even though I try not to get my hopes up with certain markets or anthologies or publishers or what-have-you, it’s inevitable that for some opportunities, I will get my hopes up.
I’m still struggling with the emotion of hope (at least I think it’s an emotion) because it has led me to such devastation and disappointment, this year in particular. It’s not doing that on purpose, of course. I don’t think hope is a sentient thing that deliberately misleads me or others and then devastates us on purpose, but I also think that it has its purpose, which is to sustain us at least for a short time. I try very hard not to get my hopes up, but in some situations, I can’t help but feel some hope, and so I’m still working on not allowing myself to be affected so adversely when my hopes end up not being fulfilled. I still think that hope can be one of the cruellest emotions, but like I said, I’m working on that.
Have you ever tried a project like this? What do you do in the face of so many rejections? How do you sustain yourself with the will to go on? Sound off below.