Saturday, August 7, 2010

A life without rejection is... dull

One of my favorite fictional authors: Snoopy.

I hate rejection.  I'd prefer to live a life as pain-free as possible, and I admit to being slightly risk-adverse. I don't gamble, jump from planes, or rock climb. However, I did live in New York for 10 years, I do like sugar, and I enjoy driving, er, a little over the speed limit.

We'd all prefer to sail through life. If we could, we'd get married to our first love and live happily ever after (and skip all those messy break-ups and heartache).  We'd write our first book in just a couple of weeks and sit back and watch while it hit the New York Times Bestseller list, got rave reviews and won every award out there.  Oh -- and we'd never catch a cold, stub a toe, or have to say goodbye to anyone we loved, either. But honestly, we wouldn't have a thing to write about if every door swung open immediately and there was no struggle involved.  

I once had the opportunity to hang out with a family who had inherited buckets of money and had no need to work for a living. You would think that they could do anything they liked and were the luckiest people on the planet. But really they were the most boring people I'd ever met. One told me that he never went to Europe because he disliked getting jet lag. Yawn.  None of them appeared capable of coming up with an exciting new business idea of their own. And none of them seemed particularly happy. They hadn't done anything to deserve their great wealth (except be born to the right family) and they seemed to know it.

"Here it is--my novel. I'll be interested to hear your compliments."

I tell everyone I had the Cinderella-like publishing experience. I won a St. Martin's Minotaur competition and the prize was publication. Once I had a publisher, it was easy to get an agent. But did that mean that I avoided any rejection? Absolutely not! I had sent out the same book to agents for about a year, and had gotten some very kind rejections ("this is not for me, but good luck"), boiler plate rejections ("Dear Sir/Madam…"), and rejections that specifically stated that they just didn't see a market for my book. I probably got mad at a few of the agents and I certainly wished they had said yes instead of no. But now, with my limited knowledge of the industry, I've learned that having an agent that doesn't believe in your work is worse than having no agent at all. They did me a favor by being honest with me. And so now I'm with an editor and agent that love my writing, which is exactly where I wanted to be when I sent out my very first query letter.

So if you're an unpublished writer, I can assure you that the only way to guarantee that you don't get published is to quit. So paper that room with rejection letters and prepare to give a speech someday about how you heard "no" again and again,  until finally one day you heard yes. And the rest was history.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Meredith! It's a good reminder that "building character" is more important than we wish it were. I knew an independently wealthy guy in college (inheritance) and he was the most miserable guy I ever met. I was working two jobs, sleeping 6 hours a night, and getting a triple major and I was still happier than he was.

I guess it's like working out? No pain, no gain? Man, I hate the sound of that!

Shane Gericke said...

Here, here! Nice post, Meredith. I think the best rich people were the ones who struggled to make their money. Folks who don't have to work for anything tend to be a pain in the ass ... and as Rebecca said, dull.

Glad you survived your rejections to become the writer you are!

Shane Gericke said...

Triple major???? Rebecca, you do work too hard ...

Oh, and I finished your second book. Boffo! Truly. You do nice work.

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for swinging by on a Saturday in August, Shane and Rebecca. I was in the mountains yesterday with no internet, and couldn't check in until today. Celebrating finishing a draft on my 3rd book - woo-hoo!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Meredith, congrats on finishing the 3rd book!

(thanks Shane!)

Senay Ozdemir said...

I received 2 rejections in ten days. And I can tell you: it hurts! Because, when I write a story, I am in a fictive dream world and believe my novel deserves the best prize!

The rejection makes me come back to the real world. My world with my beautiful son and great husband. The rejections make me realize, again, that I already have won the lottery.


Gabi said...

You're so right. Rejection = courage. You can't have one without the other.

Shane Gericke said...

My very first novel, which never got published, I was so convinced it would be No. 1 on the NYT list I actually started planning the party. Then I got my first rejection letter from the first agent--you know, the one who'd get me the multimillion-dollar deal on that book--and reality started playing the Dragnet theme.

It sucked. But it was a most useful lesson in not counting chickens, etc.

Kelli Stanley said...

Wonderful post, Meredith! My father is from Kentucky, and has an old folk saying I grew up with:

"Character is built on the edge of despair."

And let me just say that at this time in my life, I have plenty of character, thank you--I'd be happy to skip the next serving. ;)