It’s March and that means all those applications I sent off in January will be sending out YAYS and NAYS pretty soon. Nothing feels as good as an acceptance. A couple of years ago, I received a call saying I had been awarded a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship and my friend Rigoberto and I danced in the street. We celebrated with martinis and sent zany selfies to the dean. I mean, let’s face it. Good news is always good news. But we all know that nobody gets everything she applies for.
I have a couple of applications pending and I really really hope that I get at least one of them. I usually apply to three things, hoping to get at least one. This time, I have only two apps out there, so I am worried that I didn’t cover all my bases, but these things happen.
The point of this post is to give you my secret to dealing with rejection. Here it is– get rejected all the time. Seriously. You will grow a thicker skin. Take a lesson from middle school boys.
When I was in eighth grade, I asked a boy to dance. I spent about twenty minutes working up my nerve and another five minutes fretting about lip gloss. Short version is that he said no, and I was crushed. Crushed! Why? Because I had never asked a boy to dance before and I had so much riding on it. On the other hand, look at the boys in the room. They were asking lots of girls to dance. Some said no, some said yes. (And let me tell you, when someone finally asked me, I said YES.) But the boys didn’t have to run to the bathroom to cry after being rejected. I’m not saying they liked it, but they regarded the rejections and just part of the process of finally getting someone to slow dance with them. And they knew this– asking ten girls to dance greatly increases your chances getting a little smooch by the end of the night.
When I tell people that I received 22 rejections for my first novel, they sometimes gasp and ask me how I was able to take it. But truthfully, out of those 22, I only remember three or four of them. But the acceptance– I’ll never forget it.