But seriously, aside from the expected melodrama, is rejection all that bad? Of course it is, and there is nothing that you can say, or ironically, write for that matter, that makes it feel any better.
You don’t learn a thing from rejection, even those slips that offer inconsequential words of advice like, “the plot seems over-intellectualized,” or, “it is occasionally muddled.” What is that supposed to mean, muddled? Aren’t streets muddled? So, do you take out a broom to fix a four hundred-page manuscript? Does that work? Isn’t literature for intellectuals?
Or how about, “undeveloped characters.” But you’ve only sent them the first three chapters. Doesn’t it take more time than that for a character to fully develop? You’ve lived a third of an average life span, and you still don’t feel fully developed.
It’s a good thing all this happens via snail mail, or else these rejections, if amassed in one City Square, might amount to a riot. A revolt against the reality that someone doesn’t think you’re good enough, or talented enough to impress someone else. Heck, just watching an episode of American Idol should convince you of this, you think to yourself, as you read over that story once again, only to find flaws, a plot going nowhere, nothing left to say, the fatigue of delusion, a cackling voice.
What is it that compels me to write, you then ask yourself, and you return to the unsettling waters of your dreams. You want to write because you were weaned on stories, those from your mother about some insignificant town in Italy, about some pig named Esperanza (hope), who was lost in a flood but then returned by your other grandfather, who ironically was starving but generous enough to return it to its rightful owner. How little did he know that one of his sons would marry the youngest daughter in that household long after they immigrated to a better place, supposedly, one with snow.
You think about stories like that, told from various sources over a dinner table, and then you consider all of those stories out there like it. You imagine your name on their book covers. You see an italicized version of your name under a title on the bestseller list. Then you imagine your father, who is illiterate, seeing his name repeated so many times on a shelf in the bookstore, because it is one of the few words he can read in English. He is proud because you’ve surpassed him, because he thinks the world of educated people. You consider these possibilities and the trap invites you again with new bait. The pain this time is as masochistic as any other form of torture on the face of the earth.
Do you love to write, you question yourself melancholically, over and over again, like you are considering a divorce? It’s something you think about in the shower, in between bites on an apple, when you’re kissing someone else you love, or in church, where it makes you feel guilty. Yes, you answer yourself aloud, just enough for the person in the next pew to judge you rude. Then you consider why?
And it’s the why that scares you. It’s the why that makes you fearful of the rejection even though you’ve already published a story or two. Why do you do it if it brings more rejection than glory? Is it because you’re a glutton for punishment, or is it because at the end of the day, you’re proud to have something to show for everything you see, hear, taste and feel in the course of a lifetime? If only you didn’t have that bird hanging from your neck.
Dean Serravalle is a young writer who has published stories in Zygote Magazine, Generation, Urban Graffiti, Del Sol Review, The Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal and Other Voices. He earned his M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. At present, he is teaching secondary school in Niagara Falls, Ontario; organizing a collection of short stories and soliciting agents for his debut novel.