Lessons in Rejection

My heart has been breaking all summer. Over problems no parent can solve. About my inability to protect my children — from hurt feelings, from being excluded, frompintip the agony of rejection.

“I’d rather get a hundred rejections than have my child go through this,” I thought.

The sacrifice of a mother? Sure. But being a seasoned veteran of rejection, I also felt I was better equipped to deal with the pain.

After all, I’ve had LOTS of experience with rejection as a writer. And I’ve learned a ton. For example:

1. I learned to temper my expectations. Seven-figure deals, international book tours, movie adaptations — I’ve dreamed them all. But they didn’t happen, and they didn’t happen quickly. And so, my dreams are different now. Simpler. And they motivate me just as much. A career as a writer. My book on a shelf. Spending my days doing what I love most.

2. I learned that rejection gets easier over time. The very first rejection — whether it is the first one ever or the first on a particular submission — is always the hardest, at least for me. I don’t have the world’s thickest skin, but after years in this industry, I’ve had no choice but to toughen up. These days, I (mostly) react to rejection by shrugging and redoubling my efforts on the next book.

3. I learned to see the silver lining in every cloud. Most things are not all bad. In every rejection, we can find something positive to take away. A lesson about craft, perhaps, or information about the market. Maybe even a compliment on which we can focus. In the midst of the overall message – “NO” – these compliment can easily get lost. But as with anything else, the skill of honing in on the positive part, while ignoring the rest of the noise, improves with practice.

4. I learned to have confidence in myself. Writing is so subjective that it is impossible to please everybody. We can’t depend on external sources for validation (even though they are nice to have!) It’s not easy — this believing-in-yourself business. But when you’re faced with the decision of quitting or persevering, and you choose the latter time and time again, you develop that inner core. I’m not saying I’ve perfected the art, but I’m so much better at it today than I was a few years ago. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

5. I learned why I’m really doing this. It’s not for the money or the recognition. Certainly not because it’s an easy career path. I write because I love it. Because I have stories to tell. Because I feel closest to my true self in my words.

I’ve learned all this and more by being rejected. And so maybe I shouldn’t try to shelter my children from the pain, after all. Maybe the disappointments of today are exactly what they need to prepare themselves for the bigger obstacles of tomorrow.

That doesn’t mean my heart won’t break when my child buries her face in my chest, and her tears soak through my shirt to scorch my skin. But maybe there’s a lesson in that, too.

Please share. What has rejection taught you? What makes your heart break?