You’re going to get rejected a lot.
And by rejected, I mean, there are going to be people who don’t answer your emails at all. Ever. Who ignore you on social media. Who will just pretend you’re not standing in front of them, poking ‘em in the ribs, asking, “Can I pitch something at you?” (I’ve never actually done the last bit, but you get what I mean.) The first year I went into nonfiction writing, I’d routinely send emails to at least a dozen editors every weekend. My emails would include my portfolio, my CV, and five-to-six ideas.
In the first three months, only one person replied. It took another six months before I managed to convince another set of editors to give me a shot. In between, well, I’m not even going to think about how many rejections I’ve gotten. My inbox is a graveyard of buried dreams, I can tell you that much.
You’re going to get rejected. You’re going to get rejected a lot. No matter where you go, and what you do, you’re going to be told no. Not just once, or even ten times. But a hundred, thousand times. People will shut the door in your face. If your story is niched, if you’re coming from a place that doesn’t count as commercial, it’s going to be harder. So much harder. And it is going to hurt, I can tell you. You don’t really get inured. You adjust. You get better at dealing with the disappointment.
So, why bother?
Because the secret to getting somewhere lies between the pain and the agony of waiting: you get better with every rejection. The very first time I sent out a story and got rejected eight times in a row, I took it back and stared at it for hours. Why did it suck? Frustrated, I ran off and looked up the reasons it was wrong. I found out, got annoyed by it, and then tried to write the next story without all the problems. (The next story I wrote was my first sale.)
Every rejection you get will teach you about where you need to be. It’d also teach you about where you currently are. Most importantly, every rejection means you didn’t stop trying. Creativity is a muscle. You exercise it to be better. If you stop at the first rejection, if you stop trying, it will never get better. Every rejection means you are improving, full stop. How much you improve, of course, is entirely arbitrary. But you are getting better with every rejection.
You are going to get so many rejections and one day, you’ll turn around and grin because you’ll realize they’re actually battle scars.
Gods & Monsters: Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef is available now from Abaddon Books