I sat in on a writer’s group last week. I went for a special presentation on character depth and how to evolve my protagonist. A scintillating topic for most, I am sure, but it was what was said as a pre-cursor to the speaker that struck me.
Before the presentation started, the leader of the group went through normal club business: roll call, upcoming events, dues and membership votes. Then, she did something remarkable.
She asked who had rejections. At first, I thought she said objections but I quickly realized that too many hands were in the air and nothing controversial had been said. I asked my seatmate to repeat what she had asked for and I was told, “Rejections. Rejection letters.” She had asked, in a wildly chipper tone, who had received a rejection that week.
More than half the room held their hands in the air. Everyone was smiling.
What? I tried to process it – Why were they happy about being rejected?
As if she read my mind, this fearless leader recited what I quickly learned was the group mantra, “Because if you aren’t getting rejected. . .”
The entire group finished her thought, “You aren’t putting yourself out there.”
The room burst into applause. I only half-listened to the next forty-five-minute presentation because I was too captivated by the previous thought and the response of the writers in the room.
I asked myself, and I ask you, what if we all lived like writers? What if everything you did from this moment forward was wall-papered with that vision statement? What if you had people in your corner that championed your rejections and saw them as you getting one step closer to success?
My Facebook thread is full of these inspirational memes that constantly remind me of the path to success. I have read a ton of motivational guff on things like how many times Edison had to try the wrong filament before he settled on what would work for the lightbulb. I heard somewhere that Twilight was rejected fourteen times before a publisher accepted it. We read these kinds of things post-success after they have spent 91 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, but when we are knee deep in failure, are we surrounded by people who say, “Keep at it!” and “Great job on that rejection today!”
No, we are not. Unless you are training for the Olympics, when we are injured (aka rejected) most of us have people who deter us, bandage us up and want to keep us safe or better yet, friends who will drink away the hurt with us.
But. . . I ask you again: What if we all lived like writers and celebrated rejections? Writers bare their souls on paper. It is a ridiculously isolating experience and when we come out of our typing caverns we allow the world to not only read what we have created but critique it and spit it back at us. And I say spit because that is exactly what happens. We actually sign up for writer critique groups where we are told our characters lack depth and are loathed by the reader. We send in manuscripts and wait by the mailbox every afternoon for a month to hear from an agent that tells us our memoir “needs some work.” We actually sign up, to be denounced for our art. We welcome the word “no” as part of our daily bread.
We live with more strength and gumption than most- We literally create, to be rejected.
But, when we are in the right place, surrounded by those who get the process, we are celebrated for it.
And one day, one of those stories is not rejected. One of those manuscripts becomes beloved by another soul and we have our Edison moment. But up until that moment, we do rejection for months and sometimes, for years.
Today, and every day forward, I challenge you to live like you are a writer. Make your art. Style your life to look like a masterpiece. And do it with the full intention and knowledge that you WILL be rejected. Do it anyway. Do it even louder.
Ask the girl at the coffee bar out. Expect nothing more than rejection.
Approach your boss for the raise. Assume rejection.
Love your teen unabashedly. Major rejection moments coming your way.
Do it anyway.
When you do, make sure that your tribe, your circle gets you, gets it and gets the process. Life is made up of processes and everything has one. Surround yourself with people who are smart enough to know that. Make sure that when that rejection letter, eye role or snide remark comes in, they are poised and ready to applaud. Stick your hand high in the air and say, “I got rejected today.” Then smile, because you are one step closer to your greatness.