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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Eliot

One Rejection Down, God Knows How Many to Go

I got my first bona fide rejection from an agent today. I wear it like a badge of honor. It was an auto-generated form email simply saying I wasn't a good fit, but its meaning is so much greater than a simple communication of refusal. This "no thank you" is a step in the right direction and I'm embracing and celebrating it.

First off, it was exciting even to hear back from any of my submissions. The typical practice is "if you don't hear from us that means no". It leaves you in limbo. This particular agent has a tracking system and likely scanned my query, clicked a button, and sent the email. But even that says something huge about my progress. It means someone out there received what I sent. And even though they didn't want to represent me and my work, it means that I no longer reside in complete and total obscurity.

Secondly, I couldn't get rejected if I hadn't sent anything out. I got the process going and this is a natural next step. My fear of dying with a hundred unread books in my laptop is lessening. Even if most of the reading of these books is just enough to get rejected, I'm still trying. And that's better than hiding my work away in a dark, damp cave (AKA the garage) whispering "my precious" over a busted old laptop.

Thirdly, rejection is part of the gig. Anyone I've talked to about finding representation and publishing contracts groans about getting through it. I feel validated as a writer to have a rejection to groan about. And I know there will be many more along the way.

But hiding just behind this puffed up chest and brave face, lies the eternal fear of being nothing special. The fear that when I think about how great my writing is, I'm just Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" imagining his teacher raving about his theme. "A plus! Plus! Plus!" The fear that those with experience and a discerning eye would place me in a hobbyist category. The fear that I'll keep a plucky attitude through seven hundred more rejections and never realize that I'm just not that good.

You can't worry about rejection seven hundred when you're on rejection one. Right now I'm shoving that self-doubt to the side and doubling down. I've really started to push forward and I can't get impatient for results.

I'm doing the things I need to do rather than talking about doing the things I need to do. For me, that's huge.

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