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December 22, 2010

Rejection and Recovery

"Fall down 8 times, get up 9"
                                           -Traditional Buddhist saying

Learning to accept rejection is imperative for any writer. Most writers realize this quickly. Or they make the mistake of self-publishing (guilty as charged). But one important aspect of rejection that many do not consider is recovery, which I learned about through physical fitness.

In cardio fitness, such as running or biking, performance is not only measured in how well one's heart rate performs, but also how quickly the heart rate returns to normal. This rate of recovery after the sprint or interval is considered just as important as the heart's performance during the activity itself.

About a year ago, my manuscript was submitted to a top agency, and I was waiting to hear back. There were a lot of positive indicators pointing at an offer of representation, and I allowed myself to get my hopes up: the agent reviewing the material had asked me for more material, wanted to know more about me...

This was the farthest I had ever been towards obtaining representation, and I was naturally excited.

When I got the call, I pulled my car to the side of the road to give the agent my full attention. I was  rejected, and I took it hard, as one might expect, but for the first time in my life I witnessed my own process of recovery, and it was a crucial, vital lesson. As I got back on the road and drove off, I felt my dashed hopes of representation slowly transition back to the love of my material. I was startled by how quickly this transition took place in me, having expected to deal with it for days. But it was gone, and I was back on the road.

I realized that, much like the professional athlete training to push himself farther and farther, I had pushed my heart harder, by dealing with a bigger possibilitiy/dream than I had ever experienced before. My heart not only dealt with the bigger opportunity--and the hopes and dreams that came with it--it also recovered from it. This moment of recovery struck me as a key moment in my development as a professional writer.

If you can't recover from  rejection, you won't be able to handle the next opportunities or possibilities that come/are coming down the road, in the same way that athlete wouldn't be able to sprint if he doesn't recover. Recovery is just as crucial on the other, positive end of rejection: success and acceptance. If you don't recover from success--if you don't get back to a state of preparing for the next great sprint--there won't be chances for greater, higher success.

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