How To Handle The Rejection Blues
by Lee Fullbright
If you’re a writer you’ve got to keep your suit of armor polished. Rejection goes with the territory. Every writer gets rejected. Just like every architect gets rejected. And every actor. And musician, and model, and ad (wo)man, and and and…
But here’s the good news (if there’s anything good about rejection): This kind of rejection, about your project, is not personal. The rejector has no idea what kind of really wonderful person you are.
I used to keep rejection slips in a black binder. But only the “really good” ones, the one with encouraging comments. I jokingly said I’d paper a bathroom with them someday—probably every writer says that.
I told myself the binder represented effort, and effort is commendable, a “no pain, no gain” kind of thing. Rejection meant I was engaged with the world.
However, scrap-booking my rejection slips meant I was borderline neurotic (which I didn’t know, of course—not then.). It’s like keeping every reminder of every jerk I ever dated—why would I want to do that to myself?
The good news is that my binder is long gone. I’d no use for it after it got so big and fat and started taking up too much room—not just on the shelf, but as a weight on my self-esteem.
My aha moment came when a rejection arrived that sent me straight to bed; covers over my head, the whole pitiful thing. I felt worthless. I felt a fool for even trying to write, for submitting, for even breathing the same air as the rest of the human race.
And then I got sick of myself. Of my poor-me wailing … oh, get a grip, I thought. I got out of bed and made a list of my really amazing qualities (we all have them), and then I made another list, this one of all the things I love. People I love. Dogs I love. The gardens, books, and music that nurture me—the things that can take me back to my center. My good center. My worthwhile center. The empowering place (where I keep my suit of armor).
There are a particular few lines I love in Elizabeth Berg’s Home Safe. They are:
“She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose … it seems to her that life is like gathering berries into an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.”
And as much as I love these words—and I more than love them; I’m in awe of them—I always think when I read these lines, and I just can’t help it:
Yes, but you could always try changing out of that apron-with-a-hole-in-it, sweetie. No sense making things harder than they need being—unless you’re getting some kind of special (and, yes, neurotic) joy out of giving yourself more pain.
Might want to look at that.
Genre – Historical / Psychological Mystery
Rating – PG13
2012 DISCOVERY AWARD WINNER, FIRST PLACE, LITERARY FICTION
More from Kirkus Reviews: “Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There’s his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, his abusive and delusional Aunt Lothian. For years, Francis plays a tricky game of duck and cover with the women, turning to music to stay sane. He finds a friend and mentor in Aidan Madsen, schoolmaster, local Revolutionary War historian, musician and keeper of the Grayson women’s darkest secrets.
In a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three different people–Aidan, Francis and Francis’stepdaughter, Elyse–adding layers of eloquent complexity to a story as powerful as it is troubling. While Francis realizes his dream of forming his own big band in the 1940s, his success is tempered by the inner monster of his childhood, one that roars to life when he marries Elyse’s mother. Elyse becomes her stepfather’s favorite target, and her bitterness becomes entwined with a desire to know the real Francis Grayson. For Aidan’s part, his involvement with the Grayson family only deepens, and secrets carried for a lifetime begin to coalesce as he seeks to enlighten Francis–and subsequently Elyse–of why the events of so many years ago matter now.
The ugliness of deceit, betrayal and resentment permeates the narrative, yet there are shining moments of hope, especially in the relationship between Elyse and her grandfather. Ultimately, as more of the past filters into the present, the question becomes: What is the truth, and whose version of the truth is correct? Fullbright never untangles this conundrum, and it only adds to the richness of this exemplary novel.”