I keep a form rejection letter in my wallet. There’s nothing particularly special about it. It’s not my first form rejection and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s not fiftieth or my hundredth or even my tenth. It just happens to be the one printed on a half-sheet of resume-quality cardstock that, when folded into fourths, fits perfectly inside my wallet.
I started caring it with me on a whim, figuring that a reminder of my rejection would keep my self-righteous anger burning, which would continue to fuel my pride. But eventually, I got more used to the rejection scheme, and that anger faded. Yet, I still keep the letter in my wallet, because it’s become a different sort of charm.
It reminds me not to take things personally.
Yes, the worst damn part of a form rejection is its impersonality. God that sounds weird, but you know what I’m getting at. There’s a sting that comes with being rejected before you and your work have even been given a chance. It’s easy to fall into that slump where everything in the universe, especially agents and publishers, hates you and is going out of their way to make sure you don’t succeed. Clearly, they’re jealous of your amazing talents.
And then you get into the game for a while and you realize that’s not case.
(Alternatively, you throw a big hissy fit and decide to self-publish, vomiting your horrible book onto the internet without marketing knowledge, editorial review, or proper design, in which case I have one thing to say to you and it looks like this: ,|,,(-_-)
Anyway, back to the talk of agents)
Chances are, agents aren’t form rejecting you because they think your novel is bad, or because they don’t like the way that you write, or because they think you’re a bumbling idiot who wouldn’t know a good book if the hardback edition was lodged in your trachea. There are a million reason and none of them seem completely fair, from the writer’s point of view, but none of them are personal.
I think we all need to be reminded of that sometimes, especially in day-to-day life. Dude cut you off in the intersection? It’s not personal. You don’t get that job you wanted? It’s not personal. Bird poops on your head? It’s probably not personal, but birds are SOBs so I’d keep an eye on them just to be safe.
Long story short, most bad things that happen in our lives aren’t personal. They feel like it, sometimes, because everyone is the hero in their own little egocentric book; but in reality they’re not. And that goes for rejections too.