The discovery of Writer, Rejected‘s “Literary Rejections on Display” blog yesterday set into motion a series of thoughts in my demented head.

First, commiseration. I feel you, Writer, Rejected. It sucks. And at the same time it can also be really, really funny. Heart-wrenchingly funny. The kind of funny that gives you nosebleeds.

I felt that first.

Which soon turned to recognition. How many of my own rejection letters ended the same way? The same turns of phrase and empty promises, the same excuse.

Oh, I remember that agent. And that one.

I did not go digging around in my box to compare.


The harsh glare of reality. How long has it been since I was trying, actively trying, to publish a novel? (Don’t lie.) The months are many. The rejections felt a lot, but I don’t know if they were worthy of a complete and total annihilation of any attempt to be a novelist. I’ve retreated so far back I don’t remember where I was supposed to be going. Years, we are talking almost two years, aren’t we?, since after the high of the writers colony and the low of real life after?, or maybe a year because I was still secretly trying then?, I really don’t care how long it’s been, I just know it’s been a long time.

And, yes, I should be working on a novel now. A new one or an old one. Any one. A something.

So what if I have a full-time job now. I should find the time; I can make the time; I can.

But I can’t bear to.

I am really damaged by this.

How pathetic is that.

There are some people who are cut out for this industry and there are some people who are not. I always thought that I could—somehow—fight my way through it, but how is sitting still and feeling sorry for yourself fighting your way through it? How is not writing putting up any kind of fight?

I have no excuse.

I’m always like: If you want to write, you have to try! And: Keep going! And: Rah-rah-rah! And my enthusiasm for everyone else is made up of this bright, garishly happy light, this HOPE, this honest hope that they’ll make it. This woman at my old job now getting her first novel published, yay! My friend with her awesome new story, hurrah! Some girl I know who walked home with me and randomly said she was going to start her book that night because I am so incredibly inspiring, go for it!

For myself, I’ve got nothin’.

Is it better to have tried and failed, really? I don’t know if I believe that.

Maybe it is better to NOT have a stack of rejections in your bedroom that you stumble over when they fall off the shelf and you pick them up and you sift through them and you remember how it felt all over again and your heart sinks and you go, Oh.

7 thoughts on “Damage

  1. I am so right there with you that I’m not even sure what to say. Except that I’m right there with you. And I don’t have any answers.

  2. Oh, I’ve been lurking on the literary rejections blog myself.

    And I can relate to having enthusiasm and optimism for others and nothing for yourself. Writing is lonely, and the rejections only make it seem lonlier.

    I don’t keep them around. Toss ’em and move on. At the very least, they can’t haunt you so easily.

  3. Throwing them out is healthy. Erecting an electronic shrine to them only shows how totally head-f***ed I am about the whole thing. I totally relate to the feeling of being decimated. I spent years feeling paralyzed. And then one day a little seed starts growing in the ashes again and now here I am back at work on the novel. I think the trick is to clear out THE VOICE OF REJECTION from the old noggin and try to hear that tiny whisper of your own original reason for wanting to write, the hiss of creativity, the need to tell the story. I’m with you on it all, my friend, even in the loneliness.

  4. I was so moved by your post. I can totally relate. Why be so supportive unto others while so hard on yourself, while others don’t hesitate to be hard on you? Rejection letters run you down. It’s time to give yourself a break.

  5. Screw the rejections. Screw the submissions even, you should write. Even if it is just for your eyes only. Why? Because you are good at it that’s freakin’ why!

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