That Horrible U
I’ve been submitting my book to agents and publishers over the last few weeks, and today I received my first rejection. The turnaround was so fast I’m not sure they even looked at my submission; their reply was sent just seventeen hours after my email, and, thinking I had nothing to lose (beyond the slight chance of being blacklisted by a publisher which doesn’t seem to be interested in me to begin with), I decided to ask them what had turned them off about my book—concerned that there was some glaring error in my query letter or some issue on the first page that I’ve missed—though I doubt they’ll respond.
Before I even opened the email I could tell that it was a rejection, because the first sentence was followed by a U, for Unfortunately. Oh what a painful U that was! I felt a physical stab in my gut thanks to that unfortunate U! It’s been years since I’ve been rejected by anyone: here was proof that someone somewhere disapproved of my work—beyond, of course, the vast, silent, cosmic indifference of the internet.
At first I found some solace in the fact that numerous successful writers have been rejected dozens of times before finally breaking through. Then, of course, there are the authors who do give up and move on to other things—perhaps millions for each one who succeeds—and on top of that there are countless published books that are never read by anyone. In short, by submitting my book, I am more or less asking for pain, suffering, humiliation, and defeat.
These are bad odds. These are sperm-level odds.
But the sperm can’t help but swim. The alternative—to ignore the urge to create, or to live as a coward, terrified of defeat—is so unbearable it is actually unthinkable. It goes inconceivably beyond that stab in the gut I felt when I saw that horrible U.
Those who do not try cannot win. Bring those rejections on. Give me another hundred. Another thousand. Let me print them out and stuff them under my bed in vast santa sacks. Let me grind them up and drink them for breakfast. They are my nectar and my ambrosia. I can’t live without them. Nor can I hope to succeed.