Rejection is such an ugly word. Re which means again and jection which comes from the English word abject, which was originally not an adjective but a verb meaning “to cast off”, “to throw down”, and, “to degrade”. So, I have been again degraded. I have been once again cast off the literary island.
Those who love me and mean well have advised me not to take this rejection personally but I can’t help it. Okay, it wasn’t me that was rejected but my writing has been rejected and it hurts. It hurts in the most personal of ways. My writing is inextricably linked to me. There is nothing more personal than my writing. My writing is my thinking and feeling made manifest and if someone doesn’t like my writing they don’t like me and while I get not everyone will like me I cannot help but take it personally.
The agent tribe has spoken. This rejection is the third agent rejection I have had in my writing career and I am feeling sick like I felt sick when I was rejected by my first love. I can’t work. I can’t talk. I can’t sleep. All I can do is recline in my ennui pose while wearing my uniform of despair: squirrel pajama bottoms and my Pepperdine sweatshirt. I occasionally eat foods that don’t require chewing, hence the soggy Captain Crunch I slurp down when I can manage to lift the spoon to my mouth. I have watched the crappiest of crap TV; I watched five hours of The Real Housewives of Orange County. My whole body is wrenched with pain. My hair, eyelashes and nails even hurt. I seem to have regressed into a lower evolutionary life form that cannot walk erect, a Neandra-gal without the bad brow, protruding chin, or the hair issues.
I am sad in the I just watched Love Story, The Outsiders and Life is Beautiful one after the other and right after I was broken up with only to discover my boyfriend is dating my best friend kind of sad. I cried until I broke blood vessels in my eyelids and then I cried some more. And no stories about how J.K. Rowling was rejected by every living agent would help lessen my despair.
My writing is so important to me and I want to get an agent more than I want a house or a trip to Paris or anything that Prada could make. To have an agent says that someone with authority believes that my work is sellable and that in their professional opinion they can make money off of me. For the last two weeks I have thought of little else. The two week wait until the rejection was like being, as the brilliant Kirie said, like being on point for two weeks. It is fricking exhausting. I was on constant pins and needles and no matter what I did it was on my mind. When I watched Lost I thought about what the agent would find if she visited my blog. When I took Lily for a walk I would worry that she might email me just as I left the house. Even when I had sex, thoughts about the agent would sneak in and interrupt which could quickly turn arousal into anxiety.
Waiting to hear from the agent was really a lot like waiting to hear if the IVF worked and whether I was pregnant or not. In both cases I had done everything I could do and there was nothing to do but hope and wait and agonize until I learned if this time I had finally gotten what I so desperately wanted. Each month when I discovered that I was once again not pregnant it never-ever-ever got any easier. It always was bone crushing grief that each time I was sure would destroy me.
As hard as the wait was it was harder to hear the truth, I will not be represented by this agent. I am of course disappointed. I was already in grief when my mentor warned me not to be sad in her note that proceeded the agent’s reaction to my proposal. The agent who kindly reviewed my proposal believes that my book offers no comfort or hope and is instead a book about my anger and grief. The agent believes that I haven’t yet made peace with my infertility. It is her instinct that my writing has been therapeutic for me but will not necessarily be so for anyone else.
I am sincerely appreciative that this successful and respected agent took the time to read my proposal and I thank her sincerely for her professional opinion and well wishes. She did say that other agents may not share her opinion. I hope that she is right about that last part. I may be wrong but I don’t believe that I need to make peace with my infertility in order to write about it in away that is meaningful or even therapeutic for others. I believe that books that honestly and authentically explore a difficult experience are more satisfying than books that offer easy hope and resolution to subjects where neither may be possible. Truthfully, I don’t think peace is possible when it comes to infertility. I think it is something I will and am learning to live with but it will always be a wound and a wound that will never heal.
I have to say that the books that are most meaningful to me do not offer hope but make room for the darkness and allow me to feel strum und drang and say in their subtext that suffering is normal and universal and that I am not the only one who has suffered, Dostoevsky for example. I, for one, would love to read a book that has the message “Infertility sucks and lets be honest about it” and then manages to find something to laugh at in the enormity of the pain that comes with being childless not be choice. Humour, for me, is a wonderful way to survive those things that feel like they cannot be endured or transformed.
He-weasel and Lily took me to Igor’s yesterday because I was too sad, despondent and grief stricken to drive myself there and I was only going to see him to tell him goodbye. I told him my plan. I was going to turn off my computer, disconnect my cell phone, and never-ever-ever go anywhere ever again( not even to get my hair coloured) and that I was going to become a house bound recluse. He, being the brilliant Igor that he is, totally got it. “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You totally put yourself out there and you were rejected and so now you want to pull in.” As soon as I heard him say that I knew I was not going to quit seeing him.
I told Igor the agent’s assessment of my proposal. He responded brilliantly, “This is the same kind of message you get from your mother. It is the message that the only thing that is acceptable is optimism and hope and that grief and anger are unacceptable.” He then thoughtfully contemplated and listed many important books that don’t offer comfort or hope. He advised me that I shouldn’t change it and that if I did turn it into a story that offers hope and it sold that it would not be satisfying to me because it isn’t true for me and he is right. I will not write a hopeful and happy ending book about infertility and if that is what I have to do to be published I never will be.
I shared with him some of the lovely things that Anna Lefler said in response to my rejection grief in her CPR for post-rejection notes and messages. Anna said things like I will not feel this way forever and that it sucks and that I should take good care of myself and get a massage and see Igor and that I shouldn’t make any rash decisions and that this was like buying a house and that I didn’t get my first house and that doesn’t mean I will never get a house. Igor said, “Annnah ez right! Annnah ez vise! Listen to Annnah!” Igor said that advice was coming from someone who knew this pain of rejection and who had the resilience to endure it. I explained that in hearing my friend’s advice I felt comforted and understood and
I could feel some relief in just merely being understood. I felt free to feel what I was feeling and comforted by hearing the experience of another who had been through what I have been through—even with no promise of hope or resolution. If Igor or my friends had told me that I would absolutely get another agent or told me how something wonderful would come out of this I would have felt worse than I had before as it would be too far away from how I was feeling.
Anna also told me that I should rent and watch Blazing Saddles, Rushmore, and Undercover Brother as an emotional and psychological brain palette cleanse as it was medically necessary. I am not sure that Igor would have said to this suggestion, “Annnah ez vise! Listen to Annnah!” But, she is and I can assure you that this trio of film is more healing than an entire row of double stuffed Oreos.
Beyond the sadness and the disappointment I am angry. I explained to Igor that what I am really angry about is not the rejection but rather my lack of resilience to tolerate rejection that is necessary to make it as a writer. Rejection is part of being a writer. Every writer has had it and the problem is that I don’t have the emotional bandwith to tolerate the rejection. My heart is broken by rejection and I sink and break and swear that I will never-ever-ever write again after each rejection.
Igor seems to think he can help me develop the resilience. “Really?”, I asked. I needed assurances and guarantees. I am far too fragile for empty promises. “Yes,” he said, “I think if you decide not to quit I think I can help you build resilience”. As I sat there thinking about his belief that he could help me with this I told him, “It is better to be a good writer with no resilience than a bad writer with lots of resilience. Because if I was a bad writer there is nothing you could do about that.”
I left Igor’s feeling a little more resilient than I had an hour before. Lily, He-weasel and I walked the streets of Beverly Hills and I even smiled and laughed and had moments of pleasure. For four full hours I didn’t cry and by the time I got home I had already started to think about what I wanted to write for this post. Now, I have already broken my promise that I made to myself just yesterday that I would never-ever-ever write anything ever-ever-ever again.
p.s. I want to thank Lily, He-weasel, Kirie, Anna, Jamie, Igor, and B for getting me through the last 24 hours.