- Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Dealing With Rejection
This may be my last post of the decade, which sounds dramatic, but the decade ends in 16 days...so yeah.
So, the title. Dealing With Rejection. Believe me when I say that I am the go-to authority amongst my crowd of writer friends on the hard slap of professional rejection. What makes those query rejections reallllly hard for me is that I had a fabulous agent for a few years, then another agent who had an excellent reputation, for another year.
And then? Poof.
One email and it was all over.
I'd been a part of our agency Facebook group for all those years. It was great to have a support network of writer friends I could communicate with every day. I'd been to two very pricey but worthwhile agency retreats over that time. So, I knew these people as friends and colleagues.
But in July of 2018, no more than 10 minutes after my agent sent me the "I'm letting you go" email, I lost access to that support group. The very people I'd have gone to first were now behind a titanium wall and there was no way I could even say goodbye. And yes, within an hour of that email, I'd been unfriended by at least 10 people.
Getting shoved out of the nest was not a surprise, since I had planned to fire my agent the same day she fired me. But she beat me to the punch.
Take my advice, if you feel that you're ready to pull the plug in a professional relationship? Do it before you get your control taken away. As hard as it is, be the one doing the firing.
Trust me. Seriously, TRUST ME.
Then, in the aftermath of the firing, came the shunning, which I was not prepared for. Nor was I prepared for some of the words said. Words that were not directed at me as a person, but at the content of my work. Words which mortified me and made me realize that anyone who said them was beneath the caliber of person with whom I'd ever have a personal or professional relationship.
*One thing creatives NEED to establish early on is that not everyone will even pretend to like your work. Especially if there are any kind of controversial elements...like race.
But I will say this, the vast majority of my writer friends did not bail on me, but a few people who I thought I knew as actual friends walked out of my life. Metaphorically speaking.
And yet? People who I rarely communicated with, although I considered them friends, came swooping in with messages of understanding, and of encouragement.
Out of the dark blue, came the support I needed. And it's still there.
Bless those dear hearts who've stayed beside me in all this. Your unfailing support cannot ever be expressed to the level it deserves.
Yes, I did forgive the people involved. I'd have betrayed my faith if I hadn't. Besides, the relationship was professional. It was me who thought otherwise.
And yes, I'm mature enough to forgive them. "It was business." That took a while.
And no, I'm certainly not ever going to let them close again. That conclusion also took a while. Because *I* felt bad that they might be observed in a negative light.
Those thoughts are not bitter. That approach is me taking hold of my mental and emotional health and protecting it from inevitable hurt.
Thus, as I readied myself for the truly daunting task of starting over from scratch, I already had a solid foundation of "it's not ME, it's my work that they're rejecting" laid for dealing with rejection.
And ohhhhh, it's been an interesting and lengthy experience of "thanks but that's not quite what I was looking for".
There have been a few really promising highlights along the way, but it's best to keep those private until it's appropriate for any light to be shed on them, if at all.
So, until I sign anything and acquire myself a crew, this is the ship God gave me. He sets the wind and stars, I set the sails.
Even if and when I spend months in the doldrums, sitting on the deck, wondering and waiting, He is still there.
Even when the agent I really hoped would take on my work says 'no', He is still there.
He is as present in the valleys as He is on the mountaintops.
He is present when my friends and family urge me onward.
He is still there, when my heart gets weary from the hall of closed doors that stretches a thousand miles.
When a window cracks open and hope seeps in, He is there.
When that umpteenth rejection letter reaches up and smacks me, He is there.
When I write a story that grips my early readers and they beg for more, He is there.
When I cry at my own work, He is there.
Yes, rejection is hard, it stings, it makes me wonder why the heck I keep going. But I'm not as naive as I was when I started.
So, as we head into 2020, remember this advice:
Do not quit.
Do not quit.
DO NOT QUIT.
And I won't either.
I'll leave the details to God, and keep the sails trim and my eyes on the horizon.
Because a ship cannot sail backward.