Rejection is an experience common to most of us. Sometimes the rebuff is personal. Sometimes it isn’t. Either way, we must get past our hurt feelings or be lost in a bog.
Here’s an example of how fear of rejection can make a situation worse. For the past several months I’ve been encouraging a playwright to meet with a director who’d agreed to read his drama. Unfortunately, the director has a busy schedule and the waiting had been so long that I shouldn’t have been surprised when the playwright sent me an email. He’d begun a new project, he said, and no longer wished to pursue the play.
Fair or unfair, I took the announcement for an excuse: he thought it better to reject the director before his work was rejected. Ironically, a day later, the director, not yet informed the play had been withdrawn, sent me an email with proposed dates for a meeting. I forwarded them to the playwright and, happily, the play lives.
Artists, like myself, are particularly afflicted with fears of rejection. We are in the business of submitting our internal lives to the judgment of strangers, an act that feels as dangerous as crossing a frozen lake during a thaw. To attempt it requires faith in oneself.
By faith, I don’t mean vanity. Vanity is a trap that prevents an artist from learning from an audience. But having tried and failed and learned from each experience, a time comes when certainty prevails. Rejection may still come, but the artist knows the time is right to defend the work, fighting for its survival the way a mother might hold her child above the battering waves. Without courage, no art is possible.
Today I received my first agent’s rejection. Regarding my memoir, the email is brief and indifferent.
Dear Caroline Miller,
Thank you for sending us your query. We are unable to ask to see your work as we can only review and take on a few new projects each year. We wish you all the best and thank you for thinking of us.
Did the rejection disappoint? Yes. Am I discouraged? No.