So we just got through this really excruciating part of the semester here. Basically, in our creative writing program, there are several levels of classes: Intro, which anyone can take, and then Intermediate, which you can get passed onto if you’ve taken Intro and have an interest. These are the two classes I teach. After Intermediate, however, there is Advanced, and this is where things get sticky.
This is how the system works. If you’re in Intermediate, and you want to move on, you submit what you think is your strongest story for consideration. The entries are then read blind by a committe, which picks fifteen who get to go on. This year, we had 34 entries. You do the math. That’s a lot of disappointed people.
I *hate* this time of year. I’ve been on the committee before, and frankly, it sucks. You have all these students who have so much invested in going on, and when they can’t, they’re crushed. Angry. Insulted. And I can’t blame them. But it’s how the system works. They’re not shut out of other CW classes, and they can apply again. But it hurts. And I saw that today in my Intermediate class, when some of my students were really mad and upset. And I didn’t know what to say to them.
I told them that they should let that anger fuel them. I told them that they should prove us wrong. I told them that I can remember every single person who ever told me I wasn’t a good writer, or wouldn’t be a good writer, every condescending look I got when I told people I was working on a novel and they said, “Oh, really?” in that voice, and if you write you know what I’m talking about. I told them that rejection was part of writing, and you had to keep it separate from the work itself, or it would just kill you. I told them it doesn’t stop, either, when you’re published: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been discouraged lately, gotten negative comments on something I worked hard on from people whose opinions mean a great deal to me. I told them that when I was here in this program I never won any of the writing prizes even though I applied every time and it made me so mad I couldn’t see straight, but it also made me work that much harder to show the intangible Them that they were wrong. Then I told them to feel bad, have a drink, get over it. Get back to writing. I just hope they heard me.
This is the good news, and the bad news: the rejection doesn’t stop. It just changes its texture, its shape, its face. Recognize it now, make peace with it, and it gets easier. Not easy. Just easier.
have a good evening….