I know I said I learned three lessons in the query process, but it's shaping up to be four. As always, my writing experiences can be applied to so many aspects of life. I'm in awe of the ways we, as humans, continue to learn the same lessons over and over again just in different contexts. I suppose it could depress me. I mean, really, how dense can we be? Instead, I choose to think maybe it's all reinforcement. So, the next lesson isn't really new, but I appreciated the reminder.
Lesson #2: Rejection can be a good thing.
So listen, rejection sucks. I think I've covered that. It hurts. It's personal. It's a hit to the self-esteem. That's true whether we're talking about a job, a guy at a bar, a friend who stops calling, or when only a few people "like" the Facebook status you thought was a masterpiece. Your throat clogs up, and your chest gets tight, and suddenly you wonder why you even bothered in the first place. Okay, fine, maybe you don't have as visceral a reaction to rejection as I do, but just check out these Reddit users' stories of rejection if you want to know how crappy it feels.
Rejection is important, though. I'm sure I could find a million and one clichés to illustrate my point, but we have to face rejection in order to improve. We have to face rejection to know that we needed to improve in the first place. At the same time, we have to be willing to hear what the rejector is saying in order to change.
Maybe it's typical in all areas of life today—fast paced, immediate gratification—but I hear a lot of writers say things like "Well, if I don't get an agent, I'll just self-publish." Listen, I'm not downgrading all self-publishing (and in lesson #3, I'll talk about one particularly motivator for self-publishing), but after querying three novels, I will say, quality matters. It's possible that your work just isn't good enough yet. When faced with rejection, maybe it's time to re-group and to think about what else you can do with that manuscript.
I know that I am a better writer today than I was when I wrote my first manuscript, and I am sure that all those rejection letters played a significant role in the process. I am not yet a success story, and I will receive a lot more rejection before I see a book in print. I'm not saying that I'm going to do a happy dance every time an editor tells me, "No." I believe, though, that that in all walks of life if our response to rejection is always to ignore it (again time and place and that comes up in the next lesson) we miss out on valuable opportunities to recognize our own weaknesses.
I know I'll never be perfect, but I find the more aware of my shortcomings I am, the stronger I become.