Don’t let this be the only thing you do

So, this week I got a rejection on a story, a notice that I was wait-listed for a residency, and a job application rejected in, no lie, one hour. One hour! Now that’s efficiency. And getting wait-listed is at least not an outright rejection of my application, but unless someone wins the lottery and embarks on a whirlwind global cruise, contracts Ebola, or gets abducted by aliens, I’m outta luck. Still, glass half full!

This isn’t even the most rejection I’ve gotten in a week. There was that one week when I got four rejection notices. Three of them came on the same day. I was like, “This isn’t rejection. This is sarcasm!”

I suspect that this afternoon I will do what I’ve gotten used to doing in times like this. No, I’m not talking about pouring a glass of wine. (You totally thought that was what I was going to say, didn’t you? Well, I might still do that.) I’m going to make a loaf of bread.

Now, I get it, of course. Rejection is par for the course. Word has it that Isaac Asimov even had his stories rejected by the magazine that his name is on. (Yes, really.) I mean, if he can’t catch a break, the rest of us shouldn’t expect to, either.

Everyone has a limit to how much they can take in a given period of time. It turns out my recommended weekly allowance for rejection is four. If you’re a writer (or any kind of artist/creator/person in the world), at some point you’re going to be up to your eyeballs in rejection and think that you’re incapable of getting anything right.

(That’s not just me, is it? Please tell me it’s not just me.)

That’s when I get out a bowl and the bag of flour. When I need to know I can do something right, I make bread. Maybe I can’t revise a paragraph to save my life or get my subjects and verbs to agree, but I can still combine flour, salt, yeast, and water with heat. It’s really amazing, how basic ingredients like that can come together to make something completely different from its component parts. 

Granted, sometimes the bread doesn’t turn out the way I want it. I go for something chewy and open-crumbed, and I get dense and doughy. Worse, sometimes it doesn’t rise at all and I wind up with a doorstop or, if I’m lucky, the makings for croutons. Or at least breadcrumbs.

Maybe there are writers who don’t get disheartened or discouraged by rejection—and if you’re one of them, congratulations. No, seriously. I mean it. If you’re like me, and the arrival of the fourth or fifth rejection in as many days makes you want to stay in your pajamas and eat cookie dough all morning, then it helps to be good at something else, something that doesn’t require anyone else to think it’s good. That may be baking or knitting or making marinara sauce or getting your tomato plants to produce an insane number of tomatoes. (Again, congratulations. Mine never cooperate.) Maybe you can rock a calligraphy pen. Maybe no one can fold a fitted sheet as well as you do. (How? HOW?)

Whatever it is, do that for a while. Then come back to your writing.