There is a general belief that rejection is the bogeyman that every writer invokes. And like all bogeymen, people believe that writers exaggerate the horror of rejection, the crippling sense of doubt that it unleashes and the self-doubt that infects every single word that is written after this.
In all my interactions with readers, the question of rejection invariably crops up. My readers want to know if I have ever been rejected. They look at me with stunning faith in my abilities and in the justice of the publishing world and are taken aback when I tell them that yes, of course, I have been rejected. And that I continue to be have my stories rejected.
They want to know what I do when my story rejected. I wish I could tell them the truth about how I sit for hours wondering, ‘Why?’ or how I pause in the middle of a particularly fine descriptive passage, wondering uneasily if the editors of various publishing houses are going to like it. But in the end, I don’t. Instead, I gloss over the shattering sense of shock that I usually experience when something of mine is rejected. I talk breezily and humorously of giving myself a day to recover when the truth is that I may never really recover from this. I talk of how I get up the next day and sit down to work again, determined to do better. But I don’t tell them of how I freeze at every word, remembering once again the wording of the rejection, trying to read between the lines and find some comfort. I omit a description of how my fingers hover over the send button when I am trying to submit a new story and how finally, I take a deep breath, shut my eyes and click send.
The vocabulary that lies at the disposal of a writer is often woefully insufficient to chart these emotions. All words and figures of speech seem pretentious, and your words are destined to fail in conveying a sense of what you have gone through. This is like the horror that your nightmare unleashes in you so you jerk awake, convinced the world is scared and running with you. But when you try to recreate the horror you have just lived through, your words are weak, your descriptions like a watercolor in the rain. And though your heart may still thump every time you remember your nightmare, your audience will only look puzzled and questioningly at you.
And that is when you will realise that a nightmare remains horrifying till the moment you try to clothe it in words, pin it down with similes and metaphors. And that is why nightmares are best kept to oneself and dealt with in the silence and aloneness of the mind.
Just like rejection.