“After the final no there comes a yes / And on that yes the future world depends.” Wallace Stevens
What is it about rejection? The sting of it. We wanted this thing. We wanted this thing so bad. And this part of our being knew that this thing- this career, this person, this job, this award was ours. And our days had a little hum to them didn't they?
Because in order to be rejected we have to put ourselves out there. And in order to put ourselves out there we have to do a lot of resisting, a lot of tiny steps, and then finally a leap onto the stage; Here I am! In My Underwear! God Damnit Love me World! Because I Love you!
Rejection is as much a part of being a writer as writing is. I'm pretty sure that's why things like 'blogs' exist. So everyone can have a shot at writing, at misusing commas, and creating bad metaphors. Because there's a big world of 'no' out there.
I keep thinking of my father- a successful playwright, a well known food critic, a satirist who wrote for lots of great magazines. And he was always so angry.
And I was always so co dependent. I was such a co dependent little kid. I just wanted him to smile. But I think under the weird control and passive aggression that is co dependency is hidden anger. Good. Clean Anger. I think I was pissed at my dad for not making meaning out of all the no's he was given.
They say if you're not being rejected you're not trying hard enough. And they're right. I'm not saying the point is rejection. But just like comics - writers bomb- we don't always get the fellowship, the grant, the big cash prize. In fact most of the time we don't.
Wrapped inside that no there is a yes. There is something in that no, pointing you to your next step.
I remember a particularly bitter rejection I got. I emailed my best friend. Now look I happen to have won the lottery in the best friend department. My best friend is a rad human being who is firing on so many cylinders, that I want to know his opinion on anything. I want to sit down and chat about olive oil with him. He also happens to be really successful in a business that is difficult to succeed in.
He emailed me back right away, probably from a yacht with pullitzer prize winning models, but whatever. He told me he was so happy for me. He also said 'I like being rejected, sharpens the need'.
What. Wait, what?
Sharpens the need.
Inside that no there is a yes with your DNA on it.
Inside that no is your next step.
There are directions inside a no.
Listen the yes you are longing for is a slippery elusive element... That yes is like a beautiful movie star on too many prescription drugs who will leave her trailer for set when she damn well feels like it.
But the no... You can build on the no... You can create a career with a solid grouping of no's and thank you cards. You can build a sense of self. You can build a deeper more humble relationship with yourself and with others.
(My dad died when I was eight. We threw out all his rejection letters. I have a book of his published plays. They are pretty dope.)
What's your next step?