Swing Away, Merrill…Even If Every Editor Rejects Your Best Work

 

Swing away merrill

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” — Newt Gingrich

Recently, I chatted with a fellow writer in dire need of commiseration. She slaved over a story for nearly two years, rewriting draft after draft following feedback from writer friends and polishing and refining it until she was not only happy with it but considered it her best work to date. And she wasn’t wrong. It’s a pretty damn solid story.

When it was old enough, she released the story from the nest and let it fly to her targeted list of the publishing houses a story of this type was properly suited for. It wasn’t her first time at the rodeo, so she knew precisely what she was doing.

Skip ahead past the anxiety-filled months of the story crossing the desks of slush readers and editors to the point of contact, only to discover that her baby, the best story she’d ever produced, had been rejected by everyone on her list. Majors and minors alike. Which, of course, raised the question:

What does a writer do when they’ve put their all into a story and no one wants it?

The answer is obvious, and I’m sure you’re already thinking it before you’ve read it here:

You put your best, unwanted story away for later use, and you start writing again. Instead of moping and getting down on yourself and allowing them pesky writing demons to take up valuable real estate in your head, start your next project. And it doesn’t have to be some laboriously over-complicated piece. If you’ve got something easy-breezy on the back burner, something you can bang out relatively quickly, why not give it a go? A sort of cleansing of the palate before your next magnum opus—and there will be another magnum opus, trust me on this.

My old man was a fountain of homespun wisdom and one of his favorites was:

“Nothing beats failure like a try.”

And he was right. Perseverance trumps rejection. That’s the advice I gave my friend and that’s the advice I’m giving you. Since she’s a diehard Mets fan—a trait she shares with my mother—I tried delivering it with my best baseball analogy:

When you submit your work, you’re like a hitter crowding the plate in order to have a better swing at pitches on the outside half of the plate. Rejection slips are the brushback pitches, fastballs coming at you high and inside, designed to intimidate and force you away from the plate. If they make you quit the game, you didn’t really come to the stadium to play ball. And sometimes opportunity also comes at you high and tight, so—to quote M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, “Signs”—Swing away, Merrill. Merrill, swing away.

Of course, she laughed at this because she knows I don’t know squat about baseball and my analogy stunk, but it lifted her spirit, so despite looking like an idiot, job well done, I’d say.

Well, it’s half past wrap-up time, but you know me, as long as there are famous authors to quote, I never travel alone. They’ll take the mic in a second and talk to you a bit about rejection—sans the baseball references, I promise. Until next time…

Sally forth and be swinging-at-the-pitches-ly writeful, my friend.

charles-bukowski-hulton-getty

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” — Charles Bukowski, Factotum

“Was I bitter? Absolutely. Hurt? You bet your sweet ass I was hurt. Who doesn’t feel a part of their heart break at rejection. You ask yourself every question you can think of, what, why, how come, and then your sadness turns to anger. That’s my favorite part. It drives me, feeds me, and makes one hell of a story.” — Jennifer Salaiz

henri-j-m-nouwen

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” — Sylvia Plath

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” — Ray Bradbury

Related articles:

Taking It On The Chin: The Graceful Art Of Accepting Rejection

It Ain’t Impossible Once Somebody Gets It Done

Wanna Succeed as a Writer? Buddy Up to Failure, it’s the Best Friendship You’ll Ever Make

You’re Where You Are Because of Who You Are (but that ain’t necessarily a bad thing)

20 responses to “Swing Away, Merrill…Even If Every Editor Rejects Your Best Work

    • At the time he first dispensed the wisdom, I didn’t understand most of it…but I have to admit the old man was smarter than I gave him credit for because all his sage sayings make absolute sense to me now and they come in handy from time to time. Cheers for the read, comment, and compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I couldn’t agree with your advice more, Rhyan. Getting published should be viewed as a long term goal and it needs passion, perseverance, and stamina. Despite rejection you have to stick with it day in, day out for years, and working really hard to make getting published a reality. Thanks again for this timely reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. After I decided to become a writer, I had a frustrated experience because I couldn’t get any submission editor to offer any feedback on my rejections not matter how hard I tried to send in a professional story, and each time I had negative thoughts. Reading this, I will try to develop my own perseverance rather than frustration in my future writing efforts. Another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Peri, receiving rejection without feedback is extremely frustrating but you can’t let that stop you if you truly intend to make writing your life. You have to develop shark-brain where the only way is forward (of course, you need to learn the rules and hone your craft as well). And you’re not in it alone, kiddo, because I’m rooting for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe you can tell from my writing skills that I am not a native English speaker, and I am still learning how to express my ideas in a natural native way. It’s quite discouraging when I compare my work with native speakers. After reading this, I am confident now to conquer the difficulties with “a try”. NEVER give up and learn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, Cuca, your writing, from what I’ve read in the comments, doesn’t give away the fact that English isn’t your native language, at least not to me, and “never give up and learn” is among the better mottos for a writer to have, so I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors! Cheers for the read and comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Peaks and valleys. Learn from life. Keep swinging at the pitches today so your future self can celebrate all your home runs! Thank you! ✌🔥🔥🔥

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aside from the always welcome advice, it was a joy seeing some of my absolute favorite writers included in this post (Plath is my favorite poet; Bradbury is among my most-revered prose writers; Bukowski is someone who fascinates me but whose work I’ve yet to read in any depth). Your guidance and encouragement are much appreciated, Rhyan. Thank you, good sir! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m just a geezer with a soapbox shouting into the void who tends to like writers who struggle with the process or are considered “late-in-life” authors (Bradbury being one of the exceptions). I’m glad you can find something useful in my smattering of advice.

      Liked by 1 person

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