Rejection may actually prove to be the catalyst for the change you need.
Let me give you an example.
Two weeks ago I had a piece of writing rejected by a journal. To say that it was a fairly painful rejection would be an understatement.
It was the kind of rejection, which, coming as it did, at the end of a rough day and half way through a rough week, left me quietly weeping whilst saying to my husband, ‘you see? I can’t do this. In fact I can’t do anything. I’m useless.’ That is known as stage 1.
Stage 1 of dealing with rejection:
My work / ideas/ contribution has been rejected. This means that I am no good at this, or anything else. I should quit now. Why do I spend my time trying to do something which is clearly impossible? I’m never going to write/ speak/ cook/ think ever, again? For real. I mean it.
It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to re-read the rejection letter which came with detailed feedback. I noticed a few positives in it. I took issue with some of the critique. Other parts were valid and made me question the way I was approaching the topic. I still wasn’t prepared to re-work it, because ‘I can’t do this anymore’ was still the dominant thinking.
Stage 2 of dealing with rejection:
This piece of work / this one idea/ this single contribution, isn’t right for this journal/ group/ forum. I can see their point. They probably don’t hate me. I wonder if I was the right person to try to fill that gap. I wonder if I should try again or leave it?
I had another piece of writing due somewhere else, and although I was still never going to do the rejected work again, I did put my head down and write my way through the other. As I did I worked a little harder than before. I was more rigorous in my self critique. I challenged myself to make it better than it was. I submitted it, and although I don’t know whether it will make the cut yet, I know that I did my best. I had reached stage 3.
Stage 3 of dealing with rejection:
Ok, so I’m not necessarily completely useless at everything. Maybe I’m not very good, but if I work really hard perhaps I can manage to do something. But I’m still not going to do that work again. I’m an ok person and I’ve still got friends and ice cream so maybe I can carry on.
And then I sat down one day, having avoided it for almost two weeks, and really thought hard about the rejected piece. I turned it over, as if I was looking at a multi faceted precious stone that I didn’t quite know what to do with. And as I did so I had my eureka moment. The eureka moment that said – it was quite right that they rejected it. You were trying to write about something you don’t really know about. Others could and would do it better. Or at least differently, and in a style that suits the readership of that journal.
Once I realised, it was as clear as the words on the page in front of me, but somehow I’d missed it. I needed someone else’s ‘NO’, to cut through my misty vision and make me open my eyes to what I was doing. I needed to feel the awkwardness of being the square peg in a round hole.
Stage 4 of dealing with rejection: (this may happen within moments or it may take years, but I’m fairly sure you make it to this one in the end)
Thank goodness they rejected that piece of work/ idea/ contribution/ advance. What was I thinking? I don’t want to do that. Imagine if they’d said yes, how much worse things would have been. Tra lalalalalalala I’m off to skip in a meadow of flowers whilst imagining my future life of happiness.
today I’m linking with Five Minute Friday
ps. if you think there might be bigger themes going on which the above is simply an example of, then yes you are right to read between the lines. It’s all part of my forgiveness journey. I think I’ve got to stage 4 with that too.