I love the movie “What About Bob?” I do. I love it. I love it for lots of reasons–the humor, the acting, and surprise, surprise, I love the writing.
And despite being a needy, multiphobic, albeit lovable, mess, the comedy’s main character Bob has some real wisdom to share when it comes to dealing with rejection. Oh, what? You’ve never been rejected? Well, that just means you’re not submitting anything to editors. (Bob would tell you to take “baby steps” and get yourself out there, but we’ll save that for another blog.)
There’s a scene in the movie where Bob is riding in a car, chatting with Anna, the daughter of his psychiatrist. The pair is comparing notes on what their lives are like. Anna mentions her fear of rejection. Bob offers this advise:
“You know what I do? I treat people like they’re telephones. If I meet somebody who I don’t think likes me, I just say to myself ‘Bob, this one’s temporarily out-of-order. Don’t break the connection. Just hang up and try again.'”
Is that super lightening brilliant or what?
I suggest framing the submission process using Bob’s sage wisdom. Treat editors like they’re telephones. If an editor doesn’t like your work, don’t break the connection, just try again. You might be able to try again with the same editor or maybe you’d be better off sending your work to someone new. The point is, you don’t roll yourself into a little ball of sniveling dough (like I sometimes do) if you are rejected, you simply try again. And again. And again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. You know the drill.
If it will give you some perverse pleasure/make you feel better, read the rejection stories of the work of some doing-“okay”-for-themselves authors like Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King and George Orwell. As you know, despite some editors being “temporarily out-of-order” when it came to their work, these authors kept trying again. And, I think it’s safe to say, it paid off for them.
So, why not you?
What about you?
This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.
~ Barbara Kingsolver