Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reframing Rejection

Writers get rejected. That's how it goes. Someone else is picked for a project. A different style of work is a better "fit" in some intangible way. Your work wasn't quite what they were looking for.

Recently, I've heard "no" again, after a spell of silence. I didn't enjoy it -- but I did enjoy hearing something.

My family upbringing trained me to say, "Well, that's a setback, but I can get back on track" -- and resume doing whatever I was doing, only more of it and for longer hours.

But not this time. Instead of powering through a blue period by pretending I didn't get rejected or otherwise relying on willpower, I'm reframing, which is a fancy-pants way of saying "looking at things from a new perspective."

Rejection is information. I can learn something from it. At the same time, I don't have to kill myself trying to figure out "what this means."

A rejection might tell me that

1. before I send to that journal or approach that client again, I should quickly check the most recent things they've published and what they're saying online. If a journal is open to submissions only on a particular theme, it is useful to find that out before submitting. If a client has just posted a white paper on Gigantic Software Company's Adoption of Our Software, they don't need another. It doesn't mean my work isn't good -- it might mean I should send or pitch elsewhere.

2. before I send the rejected piece (or idea) anywhere again, I should read it with careful eyes. Yes, again. Maybe I became so immersed in the world of that story or idea that I lost the connection to my target audience. (Also known as the "I know what I mean" syndrome.) Presumably the idea or story has been sitting for some time period (a couple of days, a couple of months) -- great! I've got new eyes; I'll use them.

3. before I even consider pitching the idea or submitting the piece elsewhere, I should revise. As in, a "real" revision. One that involves asking myself hard questions, like "What are you really trying to say?" or "Is this what you mean?" One that requires me to consider a whole different way of expressing this idea -- is it a full short story, flash (non)fiction, poem fragment, rant, essay, list of instructions, field guide, inventory, or something else? Although I'm usually pretty honest with myself about an idea or piece that isn't ready for submission, I am still guilty of the occasional "I'm sick of looking at this so I'm sending it anyway" submission.

So. Rejections provide information. Time to learn what I can -- and then move on.