Rejection. There’s is seldom a time when a human savors a no to any request. Especially bitter when that negative response comes to an earnest and emotionally invested entreaty. Whether the spurning is an invitation to unrequited love, new job, or even more dire, a query to an agent. All my creative types will understand the sting of the blunt rejection. Art is incredibly subjective, what one may hate another may love and vice-versa. Every artist has hoisted his creation above the trenches to share with the battlefield above. All hopes lean toward the end of bloodletting with loving armistice brought about by your art. That’s the hope for us all. That our art will find an adoring audience. That stokes the fires more than anything.
Second to acceptance, even as you wince with each round of rejection, is criticism. It’s the ripping words that build your character and expand your skills. I remember in college, I had an instructor in my art history class whose main renown was his acid-tongued unfettered critique sessions. Professor Sciotti. He gave us a single assignment for class. We were to cover the major modern art movement by creating a piece of art the encompassed the major movements of impressionism, expressionism, cubism, surrealism. It had to have one piece from each. You had to site the influences to your piece. You had to reflect it in style, medium and take it further in your own way to take it further than where you found it. Then the whole kit-and-kaboodle must come together in a cohesive theme and package.
Sciotti would take the package as presented and ask you at the start what you did and why you made the choices you did. Then in front of the class, he would critique it. After he was done, he opened the floor to critique from the rest of the class. I remember the anxiety growing as I watched this man deride pieces until the artist was in tears or fled the room to escape the assessment of their work. But here was the key, he was brutal and he was unfiltered but he was honest and helpful. If you withstood the critique, he would offer the necessary information to help you improve your craft and achieve your vision.
I am thankful for the lessons I learned in the bright room. Of seeing my work on the board and given honest assessment. Between teaching me where I was weak in my craft and giving me ulcers, I developed the ability to objectively listen to the critical response to my work. If I can build off the criticism then it was worth the pain.
I’ve gotten response recently from my manuscript request and another rejection from a partial. The agents armed me with great information. Though they ultimately chose to not represent my novel, they offered me honest appraisals. That is more valuable than I can estimate here. I know that I am on the right track, I feel more hope now than ever that this book will find a home. Thank you to all agents that offer honest words for the hopeful wordsmiths out here in the wilderness. The criticisms are useful and appreciated, maybe more than the praises that were offered.
The power of positive rejection is that you can learn from them. They make you better. Instead of frustration, they offer a hope that the journey is not futile. Positive rejection is not an oxymoron at all. Tip of the hat to you agents that offer constructive advice as you step aside.