This has been a month of rejections for me, so far. Rejection is a part of trying to become a published writer, everyone knows that. Friends will try to encourage you by telling you “such-and-such was rejected X number of times before it was published.” That’s nice, but that honestly has no bearing on my success or failure. For every success story after multiple rejections you can reference, there are an equal number of people who struggled all of their lives to get some acknowledgement of their prowess…some recognition of their work…without anything significant to show for it. Even some of the legendary writers we consider truly successful died without seeing much if any of that for themselves.
One example? H. P. Lovecraft, one of the Masters of Horror, died nearly destitute. His name didn’t elicit the kind of recognition then that it does now. His works were only known in small circles through amateur press associations and essays he wrote for newsletters. He had diligent fans among those who did know his work and they made sure his work was published after he passed on. Discovering things like that is certainly not encouraging, to say the least. We writers would all like to think that if we are going to be known for our writing someday, we could at least be alive to see it.
Another example? Speculative fiction greats like Ray Bradbury and Frank Hebert struggled for years before they were published. And while both writers did eventually gain great recognition, Mr. Hebert’s break with Dune came from a small publisher who typically published non-fiction automobile maintenance manuals. He had difficulty getting much of the rest of his work published, and some of his work is only coming to light because his son is seeing to it that his stories are being published after his death. Try reading his dystopian novel, High-Opp, as a sample of something that was perpetually rejected. It’s a good book (although I would have liked to see a slightly different ending). Another situation that suggests this industry is as much timing, luck and trends as anything else
The way I see it, you can’t look to others’ successes or failures to govern what you do. Learn from other people’s mistakes? Sure, but when it comes to writing, submitting and hopefully publishing, you have to chart your own course. Set your own goals, keep going even when things don’t look so great and don’t let any number of rejections decide anything for you. Don’t gauge your success on any external forces or by comparing yourself to others, but rather by what accomplish in relation to what you have planned. Even if you get turned down now, you could end up being a writing legend someday (although you might not get to see it in your lifetime – boo 😦 .) What matters most is being able to look back and say “I tried.”