Perhaps it is the sudden appearance of lace, hearts and boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates. The appearance of these displays, even before my Visa statement arrives to remind me of my holiday extravagance, distracts me. In one of my cynical moods, I pick up a few novelty items for the children in my life, knowing that the holiday will sneak up on me. Valentine’s Day is for children and young lovers, isn’t it? It’s just another Hallmark holiday meant to shame people into spending more money, isn’t it?
Almost all holidays that fall during the winter months are accompanied by my bad mood. Though I fake it for the general public, I simply find it difficult to feel festive when I have to drive through slush and climb over snow banks. Maybe that’s why the advertising for Valentine’s Day has me thinking not about love and devotion, but rejection.
I remember being stood up for a first date. It was humiliating. Though it was forty years ago, I can remember every detail; my anticipation, my preparations and even the outfit that I wore.
As the minutes ticked by, I cajoled myself into thinking my date was fashionably late. An hour late and I reapplied my lipstick. At the two hour mark, I turned off all the lights in the house and broke into tears.
As a teenager, I didn’t have the confidence to approach the boy and ask him why he didn’t show up. At school on Monday, I spent the day avoiding hallways I knew he’d use moving from class to class and I hid in the nerd section of the cafeteria during lunch. Years later I ran into ‘Bob’ at a shopping mall. Without bothering to say hello, I hit him between the eyes with my question. “Why the hell did you stand me up for our date?”
He looked genuinely happy to see me, but still blushed when he answered. “My dad wouldn’t give me my allowance. I didn’t do my chores, and then when I mouthed off, he grounded me. I didn’t have the money to take you to the movies and I wasn’t allowed to leave the house.”
“Why didn’t you call me and tell me what happened?”
“I was too ashamed.”
For years, and even now, I remembered beating myself up as I cried; I wasn’t pretty enough, I didn’t deserve to go to the movies, on a date.
Rejection is hard to bear, regardless of age. As we mature, some of us adopt the sense to understand, some things are meant to be. But when we find ourselves vulnerable and in the same position of rejection, it’s easy to fall back into the reaction of hiding
Writers who have never felt the sting of rejection are either literary geniuses or they’ve never submitted their work for evaluation to a publisher. We are told to expect and learn to live with rejection. The reasons for rejection are many.
Perhaps your story was badly marketed, sent to a publisher who specializes in romance. It seems unlikely he’ll accept your blood-dripping horror story—no matter how well it’s written. But some writers focus on the rejection rather than evaluating the reasons and the lesson each negative response offers.
Unfortunately, most rejection letters come with form letters, generalizations that offer no clues as to where the writer went wrong. Should you be fortunate enough to get feedback from an editor—pay attention! They’re offering sound advice how to achieve success with their publication. In that case, I’d suggest you send the editor a thank you note. Believe me, she will pay close attention to your next submission to see if you took her advice and likely be far more open-minded when reading your work.
When I confronted ‘Bob’ I found out that it wasn’t me that was rejected, but circumstances. A writer’s rejection letter might mean the same thing—a series of unseen variables. If your story happens to be the sixth one with the same theme, it’s a no-go. But how would you know?
I know a writer that uses his rejection slips as decorations for his office. He has thus far wallpapered two walls with the turned down stories and letters received from editors. Recently his book of short stories was accepted by a publisher, but he is still sending in submissions to other editors. When I asked him why--why not sit back on his laurels? he laughed. His simple answer was…”because I’m a writer.” When pressed for more information, he told me he had 836 rejection slips and needed another hundred before he could wallpaper the third wall. Now that’s the right attitude.