By this I do not mean social or emotional. We are of course dealing with the day we get the notification our latest effort is not wanted. Of course it could argued that getting a letter from a publisher or literary agent which, no matter how they phrase it, says ‘Go Away and don’t bother us’ comes under both categories. That aside this missive contains suggestions on how to deal with the business; while maintaining the fiery independence which makes you the writer you are. (Yes I know the word ‘unpublished’ springs to mind, but let us not quibble with trifles at this juncture. We are seeking to maintain the small, slender flame of your will to carry on)
One should not be afraid of letting go, after all you have spent time crafting this, and who are these people NOT to appreciate the efforts which have gone into this work? Did they bother to read the whole depth and ponder on the underlying sub-texts and the subtle crafting of the interplays of imagery? Did they? Huh-did they-huh? You get the idea don’t you? So the important thing to do is to give vent to your feelings to work off the disappointment and not give way to woeful despondency and fall into the trap of thinking ‘Oh woe! What a pitiful creature am I! I should bother the world anymore with my scribblings?’
A traditional approach is to grasp the letter firmly in both hands and tear it into small pieces, which can be dropped into a bin. This is slightly pedestrian in my opinion and is just the sort of thing the writer of this rejection would expect and shrug over. Now some might say the pieces should be dropped into the toilet and flushed away, however being very domestic on this approach I would suggest writing paper or printer paper (if you had an e-mail) is not designed to be co-operative with lavatory mechanics and the bits will simply float there mockingly, now some might say this is fine because the next time you…..but no we shall not dwell any further, let’s look at more imaginative approaches.
With the letter firmly grasp(ed) growl with a passion and tear at it with your teeth, and spit the bits out into a bin (one must maintain a certain respect for hygiene). True this may lack a certain dignity that some folk might look for, but others feel it can show the correct amount of justifiable rage the writer might feel. Swallowing the pieces is not recommended, apart from the possible disagreement with the digestive system, there is the metaphorical image of the writer ingesting, excreting and thus taking to heart the words of the rejecter which is quite the opposite intention you wish to convey.
Now another: Carefully holding the letter with a suitable pair of tongs, set fire to it, ensuring the entire wretched thing is consumed in flames. The ashen remains should then be dropped to the floor and ground beneath your feet while you intone suitable epithets. I personally sing ‘Less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels art thou / More worthless than the used snuff are thee / Of more value is the fluff from the kitchen corner / Oh wretched purveyor of trite stuffs may gloom stalk thee everymore/ (By the way this practice should be carried on outside in the case of accidentally dropping the still burning paper will resultant distress. In addition grinding a burnt paper into a carpet or a kitchen floor will cause domestic upset as other people will not be that sympathetic with your distress.). I have thought about filming the event and posting it on YouTube or Facebook, but fate being what it is there is a chance of minor self-immolation and of course what self-respecting camera operating person would not hurry off leaving you in distress to promptly post a what they think unkindly as hilarious event on the Internet?
Methodical and Psychological.
An associate of mine, Phineas (it is his real name, and he has not spoken to his parents for many years now) a fellow of previous monumental output and matched in direction ratio by lack of success decided very early on that what was needed was to treat those who he began to see as the foe in like manner. So he collected and filed all of his rejection letters very carefully, while also noting with equal precision those submissions he did not receive a reply to.
After two years of careful preparation he released his revenge. Those who had sent letter received a letter from him; his letters varied in style and exact wording in response to the rejection letter, but followed a basic format. This was a rejection of their rejection in which he stated the failings in their rejection; he would cite insufficient information as to why they had rejected his work, or find errors in their use of English (to be fair to the publisher/ agent Phineas was using 19th Century rules of grammar which would bring a grim nod of approval from the stoniest of pedants of those times). He would then conclude that as they had shown failings in these areas he had to conclude they had not understood the body of his work and should (note not ‘would’ that was far too a submissive word for him in this mood) thus re-consider his submission. Much to his own grim and perverse satisfaction he never received a reply except for instances of the work returned with compliment slip bereft of comment. He would thus say ‘Ha! Typical!’ and go seeking out others to torment.
His downfall was when he came to tackle those who had not replied in the first place. He had set up a website called ‘Donotwasteyourtimewiththeseignorantfolk.com’ and listed each and every one stating the date he had posted submissions to them. There was the rather obvious failing that he had only sent submissions by postal services without making any arrangements for proof and receipt of the said work so burden of proof was hard, which might have been overlooked if he’d been a bit more diplomatic in the naming of his website. However the comments he made against each alleged recipient did in some cases positively leap over the bonds of libellous. Luckily for him as with most of us, his efforts were obscure and largely overlooked. Truth be known the only contact he had was from his brother-in-law who in addition to being a lawyer of some talent is very caring of the welfare of his young sister who had alerted him to her spouse’s current polemic. The contact as we say in the UK Civil Service covered the 3 Cs Clear, Concise and Correct, an e-mail which said ‘What the hell do you think you’re playing at???!!!’. Frantic phone calls and further more detailed correspondence explained possible civil action through the courts encouraged Phineas to shut down the site quickly, expunging its comments (well he hoped)
These days he restricts his literary efforts to genuine helpful hints on gardening forums for therein lies his true talents, in this he is happier, but occasionally he looks back to those heady times with touch of nostalgia.
It’s the most many of us can hope for. Bloodied but unbowed.