The Rejection Myth

If you like to make things, whether those things are books, poems, movies, or quilts, you will eventually run up against someone who doesn’t like what you make. That person might decide to tell you they don’t like what you’ve made; they might even decide to tell you why they don’t like what you’ve made. The best response to someone who doesn’t like what you’ve made is to calmly and without any defensiveness whatsoever explain, “You don’t like it because it wasn’t made for you.”

This answer is the absolute truth, but it is easy to see why someone might take it personally. Writers have to contend with rejection all the time, but readers must contend with a kind of rejection as well. Whereas a writer’s rejection comes in the literal form of a letter, a reader’s rejection can occur silently as they come to understand that the book they began reading is like a poorly chosen blind date. The writer, in writing this uninteresting book, has rejected the reader’s aesthetic.

But of course the writer hasn’t. The writer has merely directed the arrow of their story toward a target that lies outside the circumference of certain readers’ interest. We all shoot for the broadest target we can, but no target is so broad as to incorporate the entirety of the reading public. It may seem quite obvious that you, a writer, are not rejecting any reader, but it is worth considering. Some readers get very angry when they read books they don’t like. Some writers become very angry when they receive letters telling them an agent or editor did not like what they have written. Are the angry reader and the angry writer really so different?

In the end they are not. Rejection as we know it does not exist. It is a mirage of language we have come to believe. No one really ever rejects anyone, but sometimes people go where they don’t belong. It’s an honest mistake, and the honest answer is, “You don’t belong here.” Sometimes we learn this ourselves and sometimes people tell us, but in the end, the result is the same. We most go and find where we do belong. That is what you are looking for. You are not looking for any agent, for any publisher, you are looking for those agencies and publishing houses where your work belongs. When you find these places, it will not be a question of acceptance and rejection because you will soon see that in many ways you have always been where people are now inviting you to stay.

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