The Thrill of Rejection and the Sensible Drunkenness of Success
A writer can never have too much (or too little) advice on how to handle rejection. Every rejection, no matter how discrete, invokes the sensation of being punched in the face, and it’s extremely difficult to be magnanimous while that’s going on. So here’s my advice: with a slight shift in perspective, it’s possible to find rejection thrilling. The first step is learning how to take a punch. (Having been raised in a boxing family, I acquired this knowledge early in life.) The second step is learning how to enjoy taking a punch. That’s the hard part.
Once my debut novel Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP), 2014) was complete, I suffered twelve straight months of near-constant rejection. This did not come as a surprise. In fact, this rejection was so unsurprising that I had already parodied it in the novel itself. In a scene that occurs during intermission of Das Rheingold at Lincoln Center, after an initial burst of interest, Humboldt’s lifestory is rejected for publication in a curt exchange that includes numerous looks of “literaryagentagony.”
But during those twelve months, how much was I really suffering? Is it possible to say that those months were also thrilling? After years of Billy Budd-ing everything I wrote, it finally felt like I had risen from the depths of hobbywriting to the not-so-lofty lows of stock rejection letters.
Here’s a link for the rest of the essay: