It must be humbling to suck on so many levels.
– Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory
Last month, I submitted an entry to a minor writing contest in a major publication. It was an exercise in stepping outside my comfort zone and part of my writer’s resolutions for 2013.
As an experienced copywriter, I can take rejection. Thanks to some heavy hits over the years, I’ve learned to bounce back with the speed, grace and agility of Cirque du Soleil performer playing a panther. (Practice pays off where you least expect it.)
But this was my first rejection of my creative work. And this ride was about as much fun as getting stuck on top of a Ferris wheel while pigeons poop on your head. Screw the view; I just felt crapped on.
First, there was elation (!!!!!!!)
I went to the magazine’s website and saw it. A new winner. With the same title as mine. I thought my entry had won.
I can’t wait ‘till to tell everyone!!! MY TIME HAS COME!!!!!!!!!
Then, there was confusion (????)
I read on…you know…into the actual content. There may have been audible screeching as my brain ground to a halt.
Hey, wait a minute. This doesn’t look like mine. Did they edit it for their readership or something?
Finally came reality ($#&!)
Despite the matching title, the winning entry actually belonged to another writer. I’d never considered that someone else would submit an entry with the same title.
The internal dialogue that goes here does isn’t language I want to use on Rubber Ducky Copywriter. So please just imagine a Donald Duck temper tantrum.
I knew that my first entry to such a major publication would likely be rejected. But like any writer, I still harbored a tiny spark of hope that it could defy the odds.
When my little spark of hope was shot down in a blaze of glory, I had three choices.
Option 1: Shrivel into nothingness. I could wallow in a self-made mud pit of despair from which nothing would ever emerge but my pitiful wails and vow to never again grace paper with word. But that would mean finding a different line of work. And I love being a writer. So Option 1 is out.
Option 2: Shun the magazine. What good would that do? This fabulous publication provides equally fabulous resources, inspiration and opportunities to over 100,000 writers around the world, including me. I’m a bigger ducky than that and above such self-sabotaging pettiness. Okay, that and I just renewed my subscription. Nix Option 2.
Option 3: Put on my big-duck undies and sally forth. Here I fully admit that the winning entry is, in almost every respect, better than mine. It absolutely deserves the honor. Second, I haven’t been barred from the contest (which is ongoing), so there’s nothing to stop me from trying again.
I’m putting this contest on my permanent list of goals. I’m also going to frame my first entry and hang it in my office because even though it didn’t bring home the ribbon, I’m still proud of it. And I’m proud of myself for having the courage to submit it. I choose Option 3.
Besides, getting that first big disappointment out of the way makes you realize that writer’s rejection won’t kill you.
Have you suffered writer’s rejection lately? How did you get through it and what are your next steps?