Rejection: Take It, Then Survive It the Way Writers and Artists Do

Rejection was the topic at the February Meeting of the Silver Spring Town Center Art Salon. Learn sage cross disciplinary advice as practical and applicable to job seekers as to artists and authors.

Just how long do you wait for an answer from the powers that be before you admit to yourself that your job application, proposal or idea was rejected?  The origin of the word “rejection” is “to throw back” but writers and artists at the February 16 meeting of the Silver Spring Town Center Arts Salon report that even rejection letters aren’t showing up in either mail or email boxes.  It’s just dead silence.

That’s not news to job seekers these days either. Unemployed professionals also report that job applications go unanswered more often than not. Authors wait months for an answer which may never arrive. 

Perhaps the black hole at the center of the Milky Way is sucking those responses to her core.  Otherwise, what could explain the lack of professional courtesy that was taken for granted only a few years ago?

Author Mary Amato, the Salon’s meeting facilitator, said that “the tradition was that rejections (to authors) came in letter form so that you have something to work with, words on the page to help you.  The more specific the rejection, the more helpful.”

One detailed letter resulted in Amato’s putting aside a character to whom she gave birth and by whom she was charmed.  She sometimes wonders if he will rear his head unexpectedly sometime in the future and chirp, “I’m still here.”

However, another writer of young adult novels said that her reaction to a rejection filled her with rage and anger from grief.  The characters were very real to her and they all died at once, “as if a meteor landed on the mall and boom!”

Amato accepts the rejection letters as a very difficult but positive learning experience.  She asserts that anything she has written and then carefully revised has improved, even at two in the morning.  Basically a rejection letter is a signal that she still has a heck of alot of work to do on something she already spent a lot of time on.  “I can’t ignore those comments if I want my characters to survive.”

Poet, actress and puppeteer Ellen Cole submits her work to several editors at once since they are “small” and that it is helpful to have a lot of work being reviewed at the same time.  “It’s about throwing out a lot of seeds and not worrying whether each one will germinate or not,” she advises.

On the other hand, David Schmaltz, a songwriter and musician, is as terrified of acceptance as rejection, that someone is going to “dig into my stuff.”  He took to heart, however, a comment made by another salon attendee that rejection is protection meaning that perhaps it’s best not to get very upset about a publisher or editor’s rejection because the outcome might not have been to your satisfaction anyway.  It inspired him to reveal a personal story of such an event on the Salon’s Facebook page.

No matter which way you choose to deal with rejection letters or silence, photographer Don Berkmeyer asserts that he has to know himself that his art is right, otherwise, “I don’t know whether I could survive.”

Rosetta DeBerardinis, a visual artist, has a very practical approach to rejection letters and presented the room with her three-ring binder that was chock full. Each letter is worth saving because they provide her with the name of a contact whom she then showers with holiday greeting cards and every new marketing piece she creates.  If someone changes companies, she updates her list with the new contact person’s name. Sticking out from the edges of several of the letters were brightly colored tabs.  “Those tabs represent people who once rejected me that now accept me!”  she smiled.

The topic of conversation at the Salon changes every month. Join authors, visual artists, filmmakers, poets, teaching artists, musicians and more at 12 noon on the third Thursday in the Colesville Room at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring.
  At the Salon, your wisdom and experience will always be welcome and never rejected.

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David Schmaltz February 23, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Thanks for writing this, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Forbes Wallace February 24, 2012 at 04:03 AM
My pleasure! It was good to meet you.
Elizabeth Forbes Wallace February 24, 2012 at 09:16 PM
From Bernie DeKoven Many years ago, before computers even, I went to a printer, chose some lovely card stock, with an embossed frame, and had him print the following: "The writer regrets that he is unable to accept the enclosed rejection slip. It has nothing to do with the quality of your rejection slip, but is simply a reflection of the writer's needs at the present time." I actually did hear back from a couple editors. A couple apologies, and one editor actually asked me to resubmit my manuscript. Later, I started collecting rejection slips and used them to create my own personal wailing wall. After a while, I actually almost looked forward to getting another rejection slip, for my collection, you know. Check out his DeepFUN Blog. http://www.deepFUN.com/


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