Another rejection last week. It was fine. However, I stumbled across an interview with a literary magazine editor that tripped me up. This was the editor’s advice to writers:
Don’t take rejection personally.
This way of thinking is as pervasive as it is outmoded.
No, I don’t believe agents/publishers/magazines dislike me when they reject my work (although, who knows, honestly). To de-clunkify future references to these entities, let’s call agents/publishers/magazines “industry types.”
Now. Writers exist in a system where everything needs to be personal. You are expected to pour yourself onto the page and attempt to examine some aspect of life and emotion. You don’t get a break from that with the querying process. To show you what I mean, this is what my querying process looks like:
1. After I’ve gotten through drafting, revising, and polishing, I look at the industry type’s website to check out their vibe.
2. I look through back issues, wish lists, client lists, and work they recently accepted to see if my writing is a good fit for them. Sometimes I get stuck at step 2 for weeks as I go back to their site to gather more intel.
3. I look up the industry type’s social media accounts. Would my work fit in with their brand? In the case of agents, does their personality seem like someone I would get along with?
It should be noted that I don’t submit to everyone. If I think my work is a good fit for the industry type, then, and only then, do I submit. Following that:
4. I research submission guidelines. I check and double-check exactly what they want.
5. I tweak cover letters or query letters. Sometimes I tweak synopses.
6. I check and double-check my submission for typos or weird wording.
7. I submit.
8. I add the submission to a spreadsheet to avoid the horrifying possibility of accidentally submitting to someone twice.
This can take hours. For one submission.
By default, the process forces me to imagine a future where I succeed. Thoughts of success lead to hope. Most of the time, hope inevitably leads to rejection.
So yes, I do take all those unfortunatelys personally. I am a little too sensitive, but I’m trying to learn not to be ashamed of it.
Know what I’m definitely not ashamed of? My feelings on The Hour of the Pig. As promised, I found a way to watch the Colin Firth movie about medieval animal trials. I wanted to love it because it had so much potential, but there’s a reason this movie got buried over time:
To start, there’s a cringey reference to The Crying Game at the beginning, and the history is a little all over the place (e.g., inaccurate references to the Cathars). Additionally, Colin Firth’s character is very disdainful and snarky about being an attorney for pigs and rats. However, what makes this historical practice so funny-yet-fascinating is that the animal defense attorneys were actually very zealous in arguing for their clients. To ignore that aspect removes the innate absurdity of the situation and therefore removes most of the humor.
The filmmakers almost seemed embarrassed by the subject matter because a massive chunk of the movie is dedicated to Colin Firth awkwardly having sex with a few different women. It feels like an apology: Sorry for all this weird animal trial stuff– here’s some sex! One of his love interests laughs like a donkey in a way that’s meant to be a comment on his legal work or society or something, but instead comes across as weird and sad.
Finally, the main mystery of who actually killed several village boys is poorly resolved and anticlimactic. The script hints at Jewish persecution, but never satisfactorily explores the topic. I won’t even get into the creepy exploitation of the one woman of color in the movie. You really don’t need to bother watching it. The dear friend who suffered through it with me deserves a special thank you.
The one plus was that I did get to see Colin Firth in a jaunty blue headscarf:
Delightful, isn’t it?