This weeks Rejecting Rejection is from Suzy Spencer. Whether you’ve been writing for 4 years or 40 years, rejection is inevitable.
I’m Tired of Rejection
Oh, sweet rejection, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
I’m still thinking.
“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
“My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
“For the ends of being and ideal grace.”
Oh, shoot. If I’m being truthful, I’m sick of rejection.
If I were really truthful, I’d put an f-participle in front of “sick.”
When Wasted, which was my first book, came out in 1998 and oh so briefly (meaning for a week) hit the New York Times bestseller list (at number 32 out of a possible 35), I loved telling people that I’d been rejected 200 to 300 times before I sold my first book. That sounded … inspirational … like I was a never-give-up kind of person and if only you, too, never gave up, then you also would succeed. I liked inspiring people.
But 16-plus years and five books later, I despise that I still get rejected. I loathe admitting that I get rejected. And I abhor that getting rejected still brings me down.
In fact, I’ve been rejected several times in the past few days. Sometimes that rejection came via an email that went unanswered for far too long. Sometimes it arrived via email containing a flat out no. Either way, it hurt. And after days of rejection, I found myself lying face down on my pillow crying. Not weeping. Bawling.
Rejection hurts more now than it did when I began this writing life nearly 40 years ago, because my youthful bravado and belief that I will hit the New York Times best-seller list at number one, or at least number five, on every book I write, that I will stay on the list for months on end, and that I will become a millionaire from my books (and books to film) has given way to “Oh, God, just please help me make enough
money to live a comfortable life” and finally, “Oh, God, please let me make enough money to pay next month’s bills”?
Certainly there are days I wish I’d used my master’s degree in business rather than my master’s in writing, because even though Wasted hit the New York Times list in 1998, it didn’t earn out its advance until 10 years later. And it earned it out only because I pleaded with the publisher to let me update the book and begged them to release a revised edition. Then I pushed and fought for it to get publicity, until it finally received its first national TV exposure. Then I begged and pleaded with the publisher again to bring it out in e-book, which is when it really started making money, thank God.
Now, more than two years after my most recent book, Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, came out, i.e. more than two years after it justifiably got lost and rejected in the media storms of hurricane Sandy, the presidential election, and Sandy Hook, and after two-plus years of getting savaged by some Goodreads and Amazon reviewers, and two-plus years after it catastrophically wrecked some of my most important relationships, I’m back fighting for it.
Why? Because I believe in the book. I believe in the words I wrote. I believe in their message about the state of loneliness in our nation and how we can ease that loneliness through communication. And because woven between the one and two star reviews that frequently attack me personally, there are four and five star reviews that make my spirit smile. And when I open my email, tucked between those messages rejecting current stories and ideas, I find notes from Secret Sex Lives readers thanking me for the book, telling me it made them feel not alone in the world, that it made them decide to be who they really are, that it helped them understand others, even that it helped them heal.
But most of all, I’m doing it because writing is not simply my career and writer is not just what I am. It is who I am. And on that rare occasion when I create a sentence that my soul knows is right – that sentence that has the perfect rhythm of words and rhyme of emotion – it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. All that matters is that I know it’s right.
And after nearly 40 f-participle years of rejection, this is what I know:
- Rejection sucks.
- Rejection is embarrassing.
- Rejection is exhausting and deflating.
- Rejection is never-ending.
So sweet rejection, how do I love thee? I love thee for making me a better writer. I love thee for making me a stronger person.
As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote,
“I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
“I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
“I love thee with the passion put to use
“In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
“I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
“With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
“Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
“I shall but love thee better after death.”
Suzy Spencer is a New York Times bestselling author of four true crime books. But after nearly 10 years of writing about real life murder, Suzy desperately needed to laugh. For God knows why, she thought writing about real life sex would help her do that. So in December 2004, she began a journalistic investigation into Americans’ alternative sex practices. The result was her most emotionally challenging book yet – Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality.
Secret Sex Lives, Suzy’s first memoir, was named a Publishers Weekly fall 2012 pick in the memoir category, a Barnes & Noble editor’s recommendation, and is a recommended read by the Kinsey Institute’s Kinsey Confidential. Suzy holds a Master of Professional Writing and a Master of Business Administration, both from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University. Now in stores, Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, a memoir by Suzy Spencer, New York Times bestselling author.