On this fabulous Thursday night, I thought I'd talk about rejections.
They don't feel good, but if you're a writer who has queried extensively, you know they're part of the biz. We writers develop thick skin. Our critique partners give us feedback, bloody their nails on our books, and we take it with a smile and a thank you.
Then we get rejections from agents, rejections from editors, rejections on paper, rejections by email.
Even at conferences our books are often flayed alive.
And we survive ... killing our darlings, making our characters' lives miserable, putting in long hours in front of a lighted screen.
It's a bloody game.
You'd better believe my skin is thick. I feel like I can take any critique from anybody at any time. I will not shed a tear. Go ahead and reject me. You may make me sad for a day, but you will not make me sad for a week. I'm a survivor. I'm not gonna give up....
Well, now I have to tell you an embarrassing story.
I entered a local talent show a while back. I was singing with a friend of mine. Another friend was accompanying us on guitar.
I knew my singing friend was coming straight from work to the audition, so I didn't dress up. (He showed up in a Superman t-shirt, so it's a good thing I didn't wear my evening gown.) I put on my favorite shirt, yes, and my jean capris and thought I looked pretty artsy-fartsy, like many a hip song artist I've seen on MTV.
Because my friend had to go back to work, we were the first to perform. We gave it our best. My friend has an amazing voice, I won't lie, and I was doing harmony. We finished a capella and I thought we did a pretty good job. Our guitarist gave us a thumbs up.
There were three judges sitting below us, scribbling extensive notes.
This is what the first one said to me: "Excuse me, what are you wearing? It looks like you're about to go clean your toilet."
Guys, seriously, it has taken me this long to post about this experience because it has taken me this long to recover. And honestly, I don't know if I have recovered. That rejection made me feel horrible.* Even now I shudder.
And I wonder, what went wrong with my thick skin?
But you know, several days after this catastrophe, I actually stopped being offended long enough to analyze what this judge was saying ... and yes, make changes.
Over confidence is what killed me in this case. I obviously didn't take the competition (or my outfit) seriously enough.
Which goes to show (maybe) that even the weirdest criticism can actually be a gift. It goes for our writing, too. That person who irritates you when you put your query on the public forum -- maybe that person is the one you need to listen to. That critique partner who gets under your skin and can't seem to remember the sandwich rule -- that's a critique to treasure.
Always take a few days to think through the feedback you get, even when it hurts, because sometimes truth comes flying at us like rotten tomatoes. If you duck, you miss out.**
*NO WAY am I EVER going on American Idol after this. If I can't handle frizzy-haired, velour-jogging-suit judge #1 from Podunk USA, how would I ever face Simon?
**Don't know where that analogy came from, but let's just go with it.