Thursday, September 3, 2009

Let's Talk About Rejection, Baby!

Remember Salt n Pepa’s 1991 hit song Let’s Talk About Sex? It’s a blast from the past, I know. I was in the kitchen stirring up some grape jell-o just a minute ago, when I had a memory surrounding that song:

I was sitting in the car with my cousin and my parents. I guess I would have been in my early teens at the time. Let’s Talk About Sex came on the radio and I just froze. I felt so uncomfortable hearing not just the word SEX in the car with my parents, but a whole SONG about sex, that I didn’t even want to breathe. I didn’t want them acknowledging the content or talking to me about sex or asking me what I knew on the topic. I just wanted the music to STOP!

My much bolder cousin spoke up right away. “Did you know this song is about having safe sex?” she asked my parents. They mumbled some response and she went on, “Yeah, it’s really good because it tells girls to talk about sex instead of just doing whatever guys want. It says people are going to have sex whether we talk about it or not, so it’s better to talk about it.”

Great advice out of the mouths of babes.

It occurred to me, as I stirred my jell-o, that I still get that same lung-freezing reaction to—no, not sex—rejection. As a writer, I see a lot of it. Don’t we all? And yet, do we talk about it? Those of us like my bold cousin and her paraphrasing of Salt n Pepa lyrics can handle discussing it in an open forum, but me? Even as I write this, I feel a little short of breath.

Writers, like actors and other artists, face a hell of a lot of rejection. More so than people in many other professions because we are constantly putting our art and our souls on the lines and because the arts is very subjective territory. An actor can easily go into an audition only to be told by the director, “Yes, you read well, you look the part, you have talent and experience, but…hmm…I don’t know what it is. You’re just not quite right.”

It’s like that for writers too. There are so many intangibles at play. How many times have I read the word, “I really like this piece, but it’s not quite right for this collection.” Much of the time, we never quite know why our work is rejected. It just is. You deal with it and move on.


But the human psyche isn’t that easy to contend with, is it? We get a rejection email or two and think, “Oh. Okay. That’s too bad, but I’ll just place it elsewhere.” We get the next couple and think, “Oh. Damn it. I had high hopes for that one.” We get another few and we think, “What is going on here? I guess my work just sucks. I thought it was good, but it obviously sucks.”

Rejection is a huge part of a writer’s career, but it gets us into a cycle of negative self-talk. Yes, I know that’s a pop psychology term, but it’s useful here. Even if we don’t notice it there, a little voice at the pack of our psyches starts asking, “Why even bother?” We try to write and this destructive force says, “This story sucks,” so we get up, grab a bag of chips and plop ourselves in front of the TV instead.

I would fathom to guess most writers see more rejections or non-responses than acceptances, and yet what do we blog about? Our successes. What do we send out emails regarding? Our new releases.

Am I saying we shouldn’t be proud of our successes? Not at all. It’s wonderful to feel elated about a new release. All I’m saying is the elations doesn’t kill that dark little voice that likes to tell us it’s all pointless. The voice might go into hiding for a while, but the next rejection letter will bring it back out and it’ll be stronger than ever.

That’s why I’ve chosen rejection as a blog topic today. I see a lot of rejection. We all do. Why do we hide it? Why are we so ashamed? Well, we can blame Western Culture, even if that does seem like a bit of a cop-out. Our culture rewards successes and punishes failures…so why the hell would we admit to rejection? Why? Because rejection is something we share. If we sweep it under the rug, the rug will come alive and slaughter us like an evil robot. Really, it will. So let’s stop the public pretence. It might be good for marketing, but it’s bad for our psyches.

Hugs and Bright Blessings,
Giselle Renarde
Canada just got hotter!


  1. Hey Giselle! Well said. I have my own way of dealing with rejection, because it really does create self doubt and sap me of my will to write. I give myself 1 day to mope and feel bad, and then the next day I force myself back into the saddle. It works for me. I don't go public with my feelings, but I do talk to my friends who are authors. That helps a lot.

  2. Hi Giselle,

    A well written blog about something that touches an author profoundly. I know I've had my share of rejections, and someone elses, but like you, I keep on keepin' on. Reviews are nearly as bad. I mean sure the book/story is published, but what if a reviewer hates it? Oh, I'll even go one better. There have been times when even an acceptance is eaten up by that stupid little voice. It was only accepted because the publisher needed one more story and mine was the only one submitted. Or, it was accepted which means the publisher can't be very choosy. WTF is that about?

    Yet, we do keep on writing. We do keep on submitting and praying, and occasionally eating bags of chips when we feel as if there's nothing else for it. And, I'm one of those who is still amazed at my small successes.

    Thank you for speaking what so many of us don't like to think about, let alone tell anyone.


  3. I find mass quantities of chocolate helps!
    I used to mope for 3 days, but have gotten much better. I'm down to one day now, but my goal is fifteen minutes.

    Sylvie Kaye