Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
Rejection Woes: The Thing That Wants to Happen Next

Rejection Woes: The Thing That Wants to Happen Next

A couple of days ago I mentioned how my book was rejected by a publisher. It was a big deal because I hadn’t submitted it anywhere else, nor do I have any plans to submit it anywhere else, right now.

I don’t know how I feel about it. Am I shocked? Devastated? Those are the kinds of emotions I usually feel. I can usually work up some shock or devastation at any time of day over any event you can name.

Several days before I got the rejection, my body started processing the information ahead of schedule, which is why I needed to grieve my dashed expectations a few entries ago, when nothing had actually been dashed, yet. My body is always a little ahead of schedule that way.

That pre-processing helped me be less shocked and devastated when the news actually came, but since then, I’ve been in a state of “what now?” Do I keep trying to submit it? Do I set it aside and concentrate on something else?

Self-revision isn’t an option because I’ve already done that to the best of my ability. The publisher sent me some feedback, but it was too general to be useful. I’ve already considered the thing they mentioned, and I believe that it was addressed in the book. So, without more specifics, I have nothing to go on.

I can’t afford to hire an editor, right now, at least not a good one.

Thinking about my lack of access to an editor reminds me of all the ways that money opens doors. This is how we stifle certain voices. The publishing houses aren’t full of assholes determined to reject anyone who isn’t writing from the straight, white, cis male perspective (anymore), but who can afford to write without any promise of compensation? Who has access to writing workshops and classes? Who can eschew all housework and ignore the kids? Who can hire an editor (since it’s becoming less and less common for publishing houses to provide good editing)?

And no, I’m not framing myself as underprivileged. That was true when I was growing up, but it hasn’t been true for decades. I’ve been middle class my entire adult life. I have a master’s degree. I’ve never even once bought a used car, for god’s sake. I’m well aware of my privilege. The inherent unfairness of the whole system sticks in my craw. God, “sticks in my craw” is a great phrase. Why doesn’t anyone use it, anymore?

Anyway, I’m off track.

Earlier today, I watched a Kathryn Morgan video where she talks about body image in the ballet world. It seems unrelated, but she said something that helped. She asked, “Are you going to let one person’s opinion determine how you feel about yourself?” In this case, she was talking about casting directors who reject dancers based on body-type.

I also got rejected based on one person’s opinion. I doubt that everyone in the entire publishing house crowded around my manuscript and had a long discussion about the pros and cons of my writing. I think it’s more likely that one person read it once, had an opinion, and that was the end of it. That person is still a human being, which means they are just as subjective and fallible as the next human being.

After watching Kathryn, I watched another video with Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about how we get upset when things don’t go our way, and how instead, we should seek to align ourselves with “the thing that wants to happen next.” It’s a bit of a mystical perspective, especially the way she says it, but I look at it more philosophically.

Sometimes, I work too hard to impose my will onto life, and that jams me up because I can’t accept that I’m not going to get what I want. Instead of wasting my energy trying to push through a brick wall, I could take a step back. I could wait and explore and maybe I’ll stumble onto a path that goes around that brick wall.

Elizabeth was merely telling us to follow our intuition, but I struggle to trust that part of myself. If I set my book aside right now, is that “the thing that wants to happen next” or am I just giving up? If I keep submitting my manuscript, is that “the thing that wants to happen next” or am I terrified that if I don’t forever push that I’ll always be a failure?

Yeah, my intuition has a voice, but my shadow side also has a voice. It has a very sneaky voice that sometimes disguises itself as my intuition.

I can at least take a step back and explore, though. I just found out this week, and I’m already pressuring myself to make a new plan. I can give myself a little bit of time.

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