I fell in love – I mean really in love – for the first time when I was in 8th grade. All my crushes before then were just kid stuff, but Matt was the real thing. We were “going together” and everyone knew it (even though we never actually went anywhere because neither of us was allowed to date and we were too young to drive). We shared several precious kisses – at a church-sponsored dance, at an amusement park, and on my front porch. Then one day, at a dance, he danced with Gina …. to our song (Three Times a Lady by the Commodores)…and then he kissed her. And I couldn’t breathe.
I was devastated. It was a pain so intense that it reverberated across the decades. When I think about it, I can still feel the ache of that betrayal and rejection.
It wasn’t the last time I would experience rejection. Anytime you expose yourself emotionally to others you risk rejection. As a writer, you invest yourself in your work. You are putting your ideas, your skill, and your voice out there for judgement. You are actually putting yourself out there for judgement.
All writers experience rejection at some level at some time – the article or book not accepted for publication, the grant proposal not funded, the blog that can’t maintain or grow a reader base.
But you have to walk through it. You have to learn from it, and move on.
Just like the only way to avoid repeating the pain of the rejection of my first love would have been never to love again (an unacceptable option), the only way to avoid the pain of rejection as a writer is not to write again. If you are the kind of writer that I am, you don’t have a choice. You have to write.
So you move forward, gingerly at first, and then you grow a tough skin, accepting that the sting of rejection is part of the price that you pay to experience the sweetness of success. Eventually, the pain of each rejection is mercifully brief and moving on gets a bit easier. The longer you live and the more you write, the more you develop a sense of perspective, and you know that the sting of rejection is temporary, and the deep satisfaction of success and of expressing yourself is much longer lasting.
That’s why perseverance is so important.
P.S. Matt, I am so over you. I thought you should know.
This post was first published on Novemer 5, 2010.