I have heard over and over again that in the literary community “rejection is not personal.” I do understand that, working in publishing. Manuscripts come across my desk that I do not love, do not interest me, are poorly written or simply do not represent the flavor of our magazine. I have to reject them. Having been the recipient of rejection letters in the past and knowing the deep internal frustration of not knowing why the work was rejected, I attempt to be tactful but honest in my response. Sometimes my beating about the bush will cause a writer to ask me for the plain truth of it… and so I tell them. It hurts them. I know it does. But they asked me for the truth and I gave it as gently as I could.
You would think, dealing with rejecting people on an ongoing basis like I do, that I would not find it hard to deal with being rejected. But no, the Enemy has a firm grip on me where that is concerned and doesn’t hesitate more than two seconds before he starts making me ask the reasons why. In the “real” world of Big Publishing, you cannot answer an agent, or an editor, or whomever back and say, “Why wasn’t this good enough?” It’s not professional and will not be appreciated. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t wonder.
Recently, I got a rejection. I sent a query somewhere and pitched an article to them. There was some interest, so they asked to see a sample of my writing. I sent it to them. I don’t know what it was about my writing that did not suit, but I got a polite “pass” on the earlier pitch that they had been interested in. Query rejections are easier to take than those in which they want a look and then pass you over, because in those instances you can fall back on the truth that “your work isn’t bad, it just isn’t what they are looking for.” But this pertained directly to my writing. Was it the style that they didn’t like? My tone? Am I not good enough? What was it about that writing sample that turned a “maybe” into a “no”?
As an INTJ, I want to know things so that I can fix them. “Not knowing” troubles me more than the rejection, even though those doubts loomed up in my head as I dropped the rejection note into the trash bin. I felt many emotions, ranging from disappointment and insecurity to annoyance, but ultimately I had to settle upon the realization that rejection is a part of life. As Michael Corleone would say in The Godfather, this is business, it isn’t personal. Editors accept only what they think they can print. Publishers only want what they know they can sell. Magazines know their market, and what their readers want. It may not be my writing that was at fault, but that the style is not what their readers are looking for. I should know that, since I’ve done it before. I have turned down some very lovely short stories because they did not fit our readership or our market, or where the publishers wanted our magazine to go. It wasn’t personal, it was business.
Life is full of choices. We can choose to take everything personally and let Satan give us doubt, or we can trust that God knows what He is doing when doors close in our face. Our reaction of angst and self-doubt is just a panic attack, and a mini tantrum rather like a child stomping their foot in the store and saying, “Well, if I cannot have that chocolate bar now, I won’t ever eat another one!” Maybe you aren’t allowed to have that chocolate bar because a slice of red velvet cake is coming. But we will never know if we do not come to realize that like so much in life, most things do not have to be personal.