Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shake It Off And Step Up.

Handling rejection

Several years back, I was having some problems at work. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, my efforts weren’t deemed good enough. Needing someone to talk to, I confided in my friend, Liz. Being from The South, she didn’t just offer a sympathetic ear. Her heritage compelled her to give homespun advice.

“Shake it off and step up,” she told me.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, completely confused.

With a sigh that bespoke long-suffering patience for us ignorant Left-Coasters, she told me the following story:

One day a mule fell in a dry well. He brayed and brayed for help, until finally, his owner, the farmer, came along. The mule could see him far above, scratching his head.

After looking down at the mule for a moment, the farmer disappeared. He returned a while later and threw a shovelful of dirt down onto the mule.

As the clods rained down upon him, the mule hung his head in despair. The farmer must have thought the situation was hopeless, for he was just going to bury him alive. After a few more piles of dirt hit him on the back, the mule lifted his face up to the farmer and brayed pitifully.

“Shake it off and step up,” the farmer called down to him.

The mule looked askance at his owner, but something told him to trust the farmer. So every time the dirt landed on him, he gave a brisk shake, then lifted each hoof until he had stepped up onto the growing pile of dirt. It wasn’t long before the mule noticed he wasn’t as deep as he’d been before. Eventually, with a lot of shaking off and stepping up, the mule was able to get out of that well all by himself.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Over the years I’ve remembered that story and as a writer, remains one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever been given.

Most of us tend to take the rejection of our work by agents and editors very personally. We even go so far as to refer to our books as “our babies”. We forget that the one rejecting our work is doing just that rejecting our work—not us personally.

Now, as rejections go, I’ve truly been blessed. I’ve never received a form rejection. That’s about as rare as being able to say “I’ve never had a speeding ticket”. The agent or editor has always written to me personally. Several times, they’ve even taken the time to write detailed letters explaining exactly what worked for them, what didn’t and why. But it’s still a rejection, and there’s still that moment of hurt when I read or hear the bad news. Then I remember my friend, Liz, telling me that story about the mule, so I shake it off and step up. I keep on writing and before I know it, I’m stepping up out of that well all by myself.


Marilyn Baron said...

Great story and great advice.

Marilyn Baron

Cyrano said...

I've never heard that one Cindy, but now that I have, I intend on remembering it. I also intend on sharing it with others.
Thanks for the words of wisdom.
Have a spectacular day!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Thanks, Cinthia!

I know I'll think of your story each time I get a rejection. It always helps to have another way to handle that.


Tami Brothers said...

Great advice for more than just writing. I can think of several instances in my life where I can definitely use it now.

Thanks for sharing this with us. I think it's good enough to print out and put by my desk...

Tami Brothers

Anonymous said...

Great story...great advice. I just got a rejections letter from an agent yesterday,so it's also timely. Like your story said, I shook it off and today I've already e-mailed another agent.

Thanks for the post.


Debbie Kaufman said...

I'd forgotten that story! Great one. Kinda applies to my morning today!

J Perry Stone said...

As I'm waiting to hear news ... I'm getting my shaking and stepping up muscles ready.

Just in case.

I miss you, Cindy. Come home!

Cinthia Hamer said...

Good morning, everyone! Thanks so much for your kind words.

I posted this last night, after an absolutely exhausting day at Disney's California Adventures. I wasn't quite sure if it would "take" or not, but I'm glad to see it did. LOL!

Tammy Schubert said...

Thank you for posting some great advice. It applies in so many areas of my life right now, and I needed to hear it.

Hope you are having a wonderful time down there.

J Perry Stone said...

Awwww, poor you. Exhausted on your sunny vacay.

Come home!

Susan May said...

Thanks. Just what I needed to hear this morning. Rejection always puts me into a funk for a few days. I'm there now, but shaking it off!

Anna Steffl said...

No matter how much I try to prep myself for the rejection, it still sucks for a day. I've found its better just to acknowledge it hurts, wallow for a bit, whine and wine, then as you say, step up and shake it off. Great way to think about it!

The Writers Canvas said...

Great advice and blog today, y'all! Thanks to Stephanie for guest blogging here :)


Anonymous said...

What a great story. I love to hear the story behind some folksy advice. I remember when I was getting nothing but form letter rejections. I yelled, "If I could only get a personal rejection, a good rejection, I would be a happy camper." Then I got a very good, very personal, rejection and was so depressed, until I realized you better watch what you wish for.

Cinthia Hamer said...

But at least with a personalized rejection you have some idea (hopefully) WHY you were rejected.

It's so much more helpful than "Dear Author, thank you for submitting to XYZ Press. Unfortunately your work doesn't fit our needs at this time. Good luck submitting elsewhere." Arrgh!!!

Mary Marvella said...

Cindy has seen me when I get rejections and it's not a pretty picture. For a long time I'd spend a day in the fetal position alternating between sucking my thumb and eating chocolate. Now I don't bother with the fetal position.

Good rejections? HAH! I've had those too and, well, they're still rejections.