This is a photo of the then six-month-old polar bear Knut, snoozing and cuddling with his minder at the Berlin Zoo back in 2007. Remember Knut? Yeah, he got rejected, too. BUT BY HIS OWN MOTHER. Snap! I got me one up on you, Knut. My mother still calls me every two weeks, sucka.
Anyhoo, it’s almost the new year and, aside from teasing animal orphans, I’ve been spending the final few days of 2010 reflecting on my rejection journey thus far. For your benefit, here is some wisdom that I’ve collected along the way in my unsuccessful attempts to become a novelist and a screenwriter. These may sound like jokes but I’ve actually put all of these into action at some point – from my first rejection straight through to my fiftieth.
1) Get a haircut, but make sure it’s a good one. A new look always reenergizes me and helps me to get back at it. Do NOT, however, let the stylist take advantage of your vulnerability and talk you into a fringe.
2) Start a blog about rejection. When you write about being rejected, you’re still writing. And that alone should help you get better at writing, which in turn, will help you get rejected less.
3) Read other struggling writers’ blogs. But only while they’re still getting rejected, too. As soon as those bitches get a deal, remove them—promptly—from your blog roll.
4) Get a steady day job. Something with responsibility and deadlines that will keep you focused on finding success in other areas of your life.
5) Quit that job when it sucks the life out of you, leaving you too exhausted and depressed to get any writing done when you get home.
6) Read a crap book that reminds you that you CAN do better. For me, the book that made me want to do better was A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Other recent disappointments include last year’s Giller winner The Bishop’s Man (that was it?), The Passage (it started out good and got bad) and, of course, Franco' s book of short stories.
7) Don't cry. (More than once a week and only ever in the shower).
8) Go to the gym as much as it takes to get your butt looking good. Then you can have the confidence to say to yourself “that editor may have rejected my manuscript but my ass looks really %$#&ing perky.”
9) Don't write snarky responses back to the people who rejected you. It will feel great in the moment but they'll just post them on their own blogs and laugh at you with industry friends from their table at The Spoke Club.
10) Find yourself a friend who says things like, "But when you DO get published and win the Giller and the Man Booker it will be SO great that you have this blog that followed you along the way. It'll make for such an amazing story!"
11) Find yourself a group of writers to write with now and then so you can feel a little less alone in the world, so you can tell each other supportive things (see above), and so you have some other writers to compete with, too. Bring something small and chocolate to every meeting. Avoid alcohol unless you get the shakes without it. If you do get the shakes, then you're awesome like Hemingway.
12) Do not entertain thoughts about killing yourself, make jokes about killing yourself or actually kill yourself. Because you don't really want to actually be Hemingway and because it's just a book, friend.
13) If all of the above fails and the rejection makes you want to toss your manuscript in the trash and flush your Mac down the toilet, do as Knut did. Knut's own mother didn't want him. And what did Knut do? Did he give up? No! He just kept doing his polar bear thing, and the entire world loved him for it. He became the symbol of the anti-global warming movement. He was on the cover of Vanity Fair. He got all buddy-buddy with Leonardo DiCaprio. And now, because Knut did not crumble, Knut did it -- Knut got himself a book deal. So if you're a writer as much as Knut is a polar bear, then keep doing your thing.
It'll all work out in the end.