Monday, June 29, 2009

The Reject

Here are some words I never thought I'd say: I know exactly how the American Idol rejects feel. You know the people I'm talking about - the auditioners that are absolutely convinced that they are the next American Idol, but turn out to be a tone-deaf spectacle only put through to the judges to appease America's need for public humiliation. It's not the humiliation I empathize with; it's the way that contestant never saw it coming, the stunned look on their face, the disbelieving shock that they, of all people, were getting turned down.

It's the hubris being shattered, the arrogant self-confidence eroding like quicksand, that I understand today.

I applied for a freelance writing job today. The job is for a company that writes how-to articles for popular websites. It doesn't pay very much per article, but I have a friend who works for them and it's turned out pretty well for her - she brings in some extra money while gaining some writing experience and gets to write on topics that she chooses. She told me that she writes one or two a night while watching tv. Surely I could do something like that, right? After all, I've written over 200 blog entries, and even if you take out the ones that are my gratuitous whining, there's still a few that are moderately well written. I do well on all of my papers at school. I could do this. If my friend can write these articles WHILE WATCHING TV - how hard could it be?

Apparently, I'll never know, because I was rejected. I sent in my application, along with my resume and two writing samples. I sent my two favorite blogs I've ever written: Public Service
and a heavily edited version of I Am That Mother. And I was completely convinced that I had this thing in the bag. I never, ever considered that I might not even be hired - I was already counting my money and deciding how to spend it. This is American Idol-level hubris if I ever saw it, and clearly, I was in need of a smackdown.

Two hours after I sent in my application, I received this reply:

Dear Emily,

Thank you for submitting your Writer application to _____ Studios. At this time, we do not have any assignments for you that fit our needs.

And that was it. I was stunned. This wasn't even in the realm of possibility in my mind. They say pride goeth before the fall, and let me add - the bigger the pride, the harder the fall. I sped through several of the stages of grief, all at the same time. Denial: Wait, did they just reject me? There must have been some mistake! Anger: But they barely even had time to look at my articles - that's not fair! Bargaining: Maybe I could ask them for another chance. Maybe I could send them some new, better articles. I could write one for free just to show them I've got what it takes. Depression: (I didn't have any comments for this part, just picture me, curled up in a ball on my bed.) Acceptance: Well, if they didn't want me, that's okay, I'll turn this into a learning opportunity and won't make the same mistake next time. Plus, I'll write a blog about it.

If nothing else, this proves that I'm not ready to write professionally. I don't have a very thick skin when it comes to my writing being criticized. It's hard not to take rejection personally, especially since they were rejecting me, personally. That's a skill that I'm going to have to develop alongside my writing skills. I listened to a writer's podcast last week that said the older and more well-read you are, the harder it is to begin writing, because you are so aware of how bad you are in the beginning, and it might stop you from writing. Young writers don't know how bad they are, and therefore they keep writing and getting better without those inhibitions.

I'm going to be okay. I'm still writing, after all, and maybe that can be my rallying point - They may not want to hire me, but they can't keep me from writing! So melodramatic, it warms my heart. At some point, I'll be able to shrug off piles of rejections; by tomorrow this will be ancient history, an amusing anecdote that I can replay during my Nobel Prize For Literature speech. But not today - today I need encouragement, consolation, and possibly some ice cream.


rachel said...

Do you know that they were hiring right now for sure? Maybe they just needed the kind of writing that would be boring to you - not your style. Also, think of how many times JK Rowling got rejected - wasn't it a bunch? And now those people are SO kicking themselves. I really do think you have talent with writing. Jeff thinks so too - and even if I am woefully ignorant, I know Jeff is not. :) Keep trying.

Drake Steel said...

My roommate in college had a rejection letter framed on his wall. Kind of like a badge of honor.
One day I was out of town on a Sunday Morning and didn't have a good book to listen to so I wound up listening to an NPR author interview with I think it was James Patterson. (It was a long time ago so it might have been a different author) The guy had done a fiction book in the early 70's which was popular, then he decided on a new book and it was rejected by 103 publishers. He said that one of the manuscripts appeared to be slashed. The author said that it was like they had rejected it so throughly that they had to physically damage it! The number, 103, wow, 1 or 2 times would be more than enough for most people. The book became a series of a sheriff in Louisiana and has been a best seller for years, this was in 1997 and the series is still happening.
No, you've got writing talent, take it from a person who knows rejection of all sorts you just chose a easy target. You were, in my opinion, dealing with bottom feeders of the writing world. Its like applying for a minimum wage job and then not getting it. So if you are serious about writing look into it like you are, and I'm smiling as I think this..., trying buy a safe exercise thing for you children;-) Send the article to an agent, they'll help you get some actual money and fame etc. The woman who wrote Lemon Tart, Josi something gave a very interesting interview about getting published on the mormon momcast. Meanwhile keep up the blog entries!

Kim said...

I am not sure what kind of articles they are looking for, maybe they just want technical writing. Maybe there is a professional blog writing service (ghost blogger?) you could try instead. Um, I know I don't always keep up with my blog...

Drake Steel said...


The author's name is James Lee Burke and here's his story:

His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication by Louisiana State University press was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.