A short history of personal rejection
I once went out with this guy. I thought he was all right, you know, nothing to write home about, just a regular Joe, good looking and nice enough. But he seemed distracted. Like he was just being polite in having a drink with me, even though I was getting out of my way to be chatty and entertaining, the more distracted he behaved. At some point I couldn’t take it anymore.
‘Would you rather be somewhere else?’ I asked, seeing how he fiddled with his beer coaster.
‘It’s not like I’m having the best night of my life,’ he said and I was mortified. I was expecting him at least to deny it, to try harder, to realise he was being rude and apologise, anything but the truth. It was like he had stuck a dagger right through my heart. He was rejecting me. I was making all the effort and he was rejecting me!
Let’s just imagine this would happen to me now. I’d say nothing put on my coat, wrap my scarf around my neck two times (it was a cold night, from what I remember), pick-up my bag and leave. Because what could I have said? He clearly didn’t find me as fascinating as I think I am. So what? Liking someone or not is a matter of personal taste and the sooner you accept that we are all a bit like marmite, the better. But when that happened to me (can’t even remember when exactly, must have been circa 2010/2011) I felt the urge to prove him wrong. His rejection of me was unacceptable. Because rejection was not something I did very well back then.
‘Let’s have some fun then.’ I proposed instead and suggested going to another bar. We picked a pub on Long Acre, a bar that was always crowded and infiltrated with the familiar smell of beer, sweat and piss. This was more my playground, I thought, as I ordered drinks and downed them desperate to hide my earlier embarrassment. I got reasonably drunk before I gathered up the courage to try the ultimate anti-rejection test: kiss him. He kissed me back, from what I vaguely remember, but a couple of hours later I was sleeping in my bed fully clothed, scheduled to wake up with a massive hangover. Believe it or not, I never heard from the guy again.
What a waste of time and energy that was. Luckily it only happened once – you might think. Wrong, it happened many, many more times until I got my shit together and launched The Love Project.
During The Love Project I learnt how to deal with ‘rejection’. Or at least my interpretation of the word, which was defined by a state of non-validation of the perceived self – I wanted, no, I needed to be loved by everybody I met (suppose it’s got something to do with growing up without a strong and loving father figure). But because I was on a deadline during The Love Project (I gave myself one year to find true love), I had to be smart about my time and energy. The occasional ‘rejection’ had to be dealt with quickly and efficiently and soon, to my dismay, I noticed that I didn’t crumble down every time some guy I went out wasn’t having the time of their life. I soon started asking myself the question How about me, am I having a good time? and it suddenly changed the paradigm. It wasn’t anymore about what others thought about me, it was about what I thought about them, about myself and the world around me. I had suddenly put myself in the centre and started a revolution in my head. It didn’t matter how many frogs I had to kiss and how many joyless men I had to stop entertaining, as long as I found my prince. And found I did on lovestruck.com at the end of September 2013 (if you’re a new reader, I will have you know that we got married in 2016 and moved to France at the end of last year, so all those ‘rejecting’ frogs were definitely worth kissing and I would kiss them all over again if that’s what it would have taken to have the life I have today).
Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year (whether you’re a writer or not)
Fast forward to November/December 2015 and The Love Project, the book I have poured my soul into for three years, was receiving rejection after rejection from agents. Little did I know at the time that agent rejections were something I should have cherished instead of dreading. In an article titled WHY YOU SHOULD AIM FOR 100 REJECTIONS A YEAR author Kim Liao tells it for what it is: until you’ve gotten your 100 NOs, you wouldn’t have gotten your one YES. Then why did I stop at 23 submissions, 13 rejections, 10 non-answered submissions and 1 agent interested in reading the full draft? I must have been on more dates in a month than that and it didn’t stop me from launching myself out there over and over again until I found what I was looking for.
In a world full of agents and publishers and self-publishing options, I got myself stuck once again in the old ‘rejection’ rut and reacted in pretty much the same way. When I received feedback from the one agent who had read my manuscript, I decided to change the book based on their feedback. I wanted them to love me just like I wanted that guy to have the time of his life during that awful date and this is why The Love Project has been in this state of finished-but-not-finished-because-I-want-to-change-it-and-make-it-what-it-isn’t-and-was-never-intended-to-be ever since. Because of 13 rejections and one agent feedback!
This morning I received feedback from a competition I had submitted to a few months ago. The judges review the potential of written books to be turned into films or TV shows. This is what the feedback said:
THE LOVE PROJECT – Despite a distinctive voice and good prose, the overarching narrative feels a little too derivative to work as an adaptable property. While the specific element of project managing one’s love life is its own thing, the narrative surrounding a woman finding herself to open herself up to love has been explored quite a bit. The subject matter has been tackled in various projects from “Eat Pray Love” to “New Girl” to “Crazy Ex Girlfriend.” There’s not quite enough freshness here to attract a producer or studio, as they might shy away. Consequently, this project would not likely be attractive to producers or studios for adaptation.
Two or three years ago, ’not enough freshness’ or ‘would not likely be attractive to producers’ would have stood up for me like a boil in the middle of the forehead, but what I see today when I read this is ‘distinctive voice’ and ‘good prose’.
Which reminds me of a friend’s story. When she was at the beginning of her career in advertising, she had been asked to attend a meeting as the only account management person present. The Creative Director emailed her afterwards and asked her if she didn’t think she should be circulating some notes from the meeting. Instead of thinking ‘Oh dear, I should have done that without needing to be prompted by Creative Director because it is my job,’ she instead thought ‘Good, he remarked me and he thinks I can write some great notes from the meeting.’ She ended up having a successful career in advertising and a close working relationship with the aforementioned Creative Director. Which proves that the only type of rejection that is real and has genuine power to strangle us is the one we formulate about ourselves.
Onwards and upwards, friends. If you’ll excuse me, I have another 87 agent/competitions/publishers rejections to go until I get what I am looking for.
What about you? Where does your fear of rejection lie and how many more rejections do you have to collect to reach the magic 100?