When I was asked to write a weekly blog about literary rejections my anxiety levels rose instantly and my insecurities kicked into rapid-fire mode. Me? Write a blog? What do I know about being a writer? I’m a former elementary school teacher. I’m a wife and mother of two daughters. I’m an American expat living overseas. And then I started thinking about rejection. I know about rejection just like you do. I know it because rejection is a part of life. Rejection is painful. Rejection is uncomfortable. Rejection stings. Rejection just sucks.
My most recent experience with rejection has to do with a business idea I had after I left the classroom and discovered mindfulness. I decided that I wanted to teach mindfulness to children at my former school as an outside provider. I proposed my business idea to the school and got shot down by the administration. I kept trying to connect with the school, but eventually the wall of refusals got to me and I let go of the idea. To say the least, I felt like a failure and fell into a dark depression. I wandered the emptiness of each day wondering what on earth I would do now.
While rejection is a universal experience, our reaction to it is what is unique. I began to get curious about the topic. What do we know about how people deal with rejection? Why does rejection make some people more determined to keep going and cripple others? What is the science behind how our brain copes with rejection? How can we cultivate resiliency in the face of adversity? How does rejection affect our self worth?
In this series of blog posts I will attempt to answer some of these questions surrounding writers rejection and how creative people deal with it.
In researching for this blog I came across NYMAG’s 25 Famous Women on Overcoming Rejection. I read through the quotes by famous writers, artists, and women in the creative fields. I found myself connecting with each one in some way. We’ve all experienced rejection in some form. But there were some insights that had me saying, “Yes! Yes! That’s it. That’s exactly how I feel.” In 2013 Cheryl Strayed told Guernica Mag:
“The strangest thing to come out of Wild’s success is how often people make incorrect assumptions about me. They assume writing is easy for me and I’ll never face rejection again. But of course I will and I do. The thing I’ve learned over and over again is never, ever assume that you’re going to get something — publication, award nominations, a prize, a residency, or fellowship. And never assume you aren’t going to get it either. The writing life doesn’t move in a straight line. I’ve had successes and rejections all along the way, at every stage of my career, and I will continue to do so. Acceptances and rejections don’t define me. They’re both part of what it means to be a writer. My job is to simply keep doing the work. Like — well, you know — a motherfucker.”
I have yet to mention that ten years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Talk about rejection! This was the ultimate rejection. I was told that I had a brain disorder in which I would experience extreme shifts in mood and energy. But being bipolar is part of my reality now and it shapes how I look at the world. It gives me a unique perspective on rejection.
So I leave you with Cheryl Strayed’s insight. Keep doing the work. Whatever that work may be. Like – well, you know – a motherfucker.