Thursday, 25 August 2011

Why rejection has to hurt

Somewhere in the blogosphere a literary agent was bad-mouthing a writer for asking the agent not to bother sending a rejection letter if they weren't interested in their work - the writer was only interested in good news. Clearly this 'writer' couldn't handle rejection and wasn't the sort of person the agent wanted on their books. We all know that writing is just one long string of rejections – pre-publication, during publication and post-publication, so this person was clearly not cut out for the industry. Right?

Bollocks. Quite apart from the fact that publicly disrespecting those you make your money from is not only deeply unprofessional but extremely distasteful, I think this writer's approach demonstrates the complete opposite – they are in fact dealing with rejection and by assuming it, addressing the reality of it head on.

I guess the agent's demonstrable lack of imagination in not realising this explains why they sell books rather than write them. I wonder if the agent would have cared if the book were brilliant? I wonder if the agent could even tell...

So all power to this writer for trying to take some power back.

We're told that we have to deal with rejection, it's part of the business, we have to be professional. And we have to be told, by the Rejecters, that this is the case. Just in case we hadn't noticed.

We have to be sensitive to the world around us, to understand and interpret peoples' emotions and motivations. We have to examine ourselves and our own lives so we can empathise with others. We have to watch sunsets and sunrises, tempests and heatwaves, we have to feel them, observe them, so we can relate them, the feelings they invoke, the sounds and smell of them. We have to understand our pain, examine our joy, reflect on our desires and our hates and our passions because what is true to us will be true to others.

We have to understand but we also have to feel – craft and wisdom is not enough – we need emotional depth – that joy and pain has to be ripped out of us and invested in our characters and our work, because if it isn't, it will be meaningless shit. And when we've dumped all that rawness on the page we have to work it, and work it, and work it.

And then someone rejects it.

And it's going to hurt. Whatever they say.

But be reassured, it means you are, or are going to be, a good writer. Because if you haven't got that sensitivity, you might as well be an agent.


  1. I really love your blog. You have the balls to say what the rest of us are afraid to.

  2. I really don't like when agents or anyone mock query letters - and it def. still happens. I know they're most likely trying to help but it usually doesn't come across that way. And I usually don't end up querying that agent - I know, like they care.