Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thickening Your Skin

Just a quick follow-up to yesterday's post. Larramie asked, "How do you let the "nos," not bother you?," and I think she got some great answers in the comments section.

I just wanted to add my own two cents. I do believe that certain people are born with thicker skin than others (or develop it as they grow up). In fact, studies have shown that some people are inherently more resilient than others - recovering more quickly from illnesses and events that might leave them grief-stricken. So, for starters, I really think that some of us - perhaps armed with false confidence or I don't know what - simply let rejection roll of our backs easier than others. This isn't better or worse than any other personality trait; it's simply a fact of life. The exact same agent rejection will quickly be forgotten by one writer and internalized for days by another. No real explaining it other than genetic make-up or upbringing.

But if you're not naturally one of those people, I do think, as MTV reiterates in the comments section, that repeating the phrase, "it's just business," can help. Because at the end of the day (or the beginning or the middle), that's all it is. And editor (or agent) isn't rejecting YOU; she's saying, "this idea or this story or this book doesn't work for me." She's not saying that your writing sucks or that you'll never amount to anything or whatever all of those other voices in your head are telling you. She's saying, "hey, for my business, this doesn't cut it." Interestingly enough, I once interviewed a Ph.D. who told me that women are much more likely to personalize business dealings compared to men. And, I mean, isn't that so easy to believe? My husband would never come home from a shitty day at the office and say, "A deal blew up today, and it was clearly because the CEO didn't like me." No, he'd say, "A deal blew up today," and then proceed to list all of the reasons why - that he knew of - that it had. And trust me, none of them would be about him.

Think about this the next time you get rejected. There are a MILLION reasons why a magazine editor, for example, will turn down an idea. Here are some: they recently ran something similar, a competitor recently ran something similar, it doesn't fit their demographic, they've already filled the issue for which you're pitching, another writer has already been assigned the story, she's having a crappy day, her boyfriend just left her, her boss just chewed her out, she never got your email, the study you're basing the idea on has been disproven, her shoes hurt, her mother is driving her crazy...who the hell knows? I could go on for days.

The point is that rejection is almost never about you. And even if it IS about you, you'll probably never know. So why not chalk it up to any of the above reasons and enjoy your day instead?


Trish said...

Yes, and the greatest successes in the history of the world failed over and over and over: Edison, Helen Keller, even Carnegie and Rockefeller, heck Marconi (the SOS machine dude) got put in a pysch hospital, because his "friends" thought he'd lost it. He got himself out and invented his machine anyway and there ya go . . .

To be successful, you must focus on a solution, rather than a problem. Keep writing, keep thinking, and don't ever give up. You are only improving your chances and your abilities if you keep at it.

Off my soapbox now. Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, there were many great comments and perspectives regarding my question and it generated a good discussion, along with your follow-up blog entry.

While I totally agree that certain personalities are not "built" to take rejection, there's also the reminder of being a professional because writing IS a business.