One of the questions I was asked at career day a couple of weeks ago was this:
"How do you feel when you get rejected?"
This is a hard question to answer simply, because there are so many emotions involved. And even those vary depending on the type of rejection it is.
There's the standard "no thanks" form letter. These letters cause an immediate, yet temporary, emotional deflation. My shoulders sag, my heart settles a little heavier in my chest and I get quiet and pensive. Then comes a decisive moment: Give the story another hard look? Or send it out again? The answer will depend on a few things, including how many times the story has been sent out and what (if any) kind of feedback I've received. But once a decision is made, I feel energized!
Then there's a step up from a form letter. It's still a pretty basic "no thanks" letter, but with the added courtesy of a personal address and actual signature (in snail mail replies, anyway). In the case of this kind of rejection, there's still the temporary emotional deflation. But my shoulders sag a little less. I think this is because seeing "Dear Rebecca" shows me that someone took at least a little time to make it personal.
A rejection that includes actual feedback (we liked _____ about your work, but...) is also disappointing. But the disappointment is tempered by the fact that THEY LIKED SOMETHING ABOUT MY WORK! It gives me hope that I'm doing something RIGHT and could help me fix what I might be doing wrong. Occasionally this type of rejection includes the delightful phrase, "We would be happy to see more of your work." Even better!
The worst type of rejection is the one that follows a reply like, "We would like to hold your story for further consideration," or "Yes, please send the full manuscript. I would love to keep reading." Even though I know that those replies are not a definite "yes," it is so easy to get my hopes up. So, to receive a letter later that says something like "...ultimately, we decided that this story does not fit..." Ouch! That is the worst. To come so close only to have my hopes crushed, like a birthday cake that crashes to the floor before I can even blow out the candles. Not fun. BUT...this type of rejection is also the best. It shows me that I've grown as a writer. That I've come this far and there's no reason why I won't make it all the way.
This is what it takes to be a writer. Talent is important. But to believe in my work, to have the drive to face rejection after rejection, to pick myself up out of the rejection pile threatening to smother me--these are the things that will help me reach my goal.
I may be panting and ragged, but I'll get there.