“Our personal measurement systems are twisted and biased; they’re based on a convoluted collection of expectations we’ve absorbed over our lifetimes” (Romaner, 105)
This weekend, I had to deal with rejection, that is, artistic rejection. A few months ago, I submitted a short story for an anthology and I got the official form rejection email on Saturday.
Rejection is a part of life and artists are probably a little more sensitive to it than most. Nobody likes to be rejected on a job they’ve done but for artists, the job is usually something they created, made happen out of nothing. It’s like a teacher telling you that your child is stupid and lazy (especially when you know he isn’t, he is just struggling because of a bully that is distracting him).
Even though I’ve experienced plenty of rejection, personally, professionally, and artistically, in my fort-plus years, this one hit me hard. Not only because it was an artistic rejection but because I hadn’t submitted something to an anthology or contest for more than ten years, focusing instead on exploring my creative options and self-publishing interests.
But sometimes there is an invisible magic working to make stars collide. A week ago, I received a lovely book as a gift from my sister called The Science Of Making Things Happen by Kim Marcille Romaner. The book takes a quantum physics approach to the Law Of Attraction, a spiritual idea that helps people to fulfill their dreams. While not a book I would have picked up on my own (I am not a scientific person), I started reading it, knowing that sisters have an uncanny way of knowing what you need just at the time you need it.
On Saturday, I happened to be reading the chapter on the inverse Zeno effect (a concept of quantum physics that I am still trying to grasp). Romaner, in her simple and pragmatic way, discusses the ways in which our personal measurement systems (the way we see ourselves and our worlds, how we evaluate ourselves) don’t always work in our favor. For example, she points out how mood affects the outcome of our self-evaluations:
“If you feel good, you measure one way. If you feel down, you measure another.” (Romaner, 103)
In other words, if we’re happy, we see ourselves in good ways (productive, confident, generous) and if we’re depressed or angry or frustrated, we berate ourselves with verbal flagellations and put-downs. When I got the rejection, my thoughts about myself as a writer and as a person turned negative: I’m writing too awkwardly, too flowery, too clumsily, I should be writing in a more popular genre, I don’t edit stories enough (this last is ironic, considering that I revised the story I sent to the anthology eight times). In other words, my disappointment was causing me to measure myself and my abilities down.
I began to see how right Romaner is that these melodramatic and inconsistent self-evaluations feed right into our self-destructive belief systems. We all have things we believe about ourselves, some true, some delusional, some actual some of the time but not all of the time. In other words, we all have our little ‘t’ truths. Since we tend measure down more often than measure up, our measurements all too often reinforce those little ‘t’ truths that can undermine our good sense of ourselves:
“By catching yourself repeatedly in violation of your own belief system, you constantly remind yourself of your own internal misalignment” (Romaner, 104).
My own personal belief system has, unfortunately, a myriad of self-deprecating axioms: You’ll never be a successful writer, You don’t deserve to succeed in anything in your life, You’re just an emotional child destined to be dependent upon others, You don’t have the strength, You don’t have the guts. All of these thoughts and emotions were in full swing this weekend.
One of Romaner’s suggestions is to accentuate the positive to cut out the negative. To turn judgment into analysis, informative analysis of the self. Here, bless her, she refers to the process as a creative one (even though her book is geared more towards the business world than the art world):
“Rather than using measurement as a gauge of your personal value, decide instead to measure yourself to gain important information that you can use to guide the creative process” (Romaner, 107).
When I turned judgment into analysis, I came up with the following conclusions: my assessment that I was writing in a bad genre and faulty style was false and I need to open myself up to more support and guidance from fellow writers as well as give back for my own personal and artistic gain.
And, in fact, broadening your options is a big part of what Romaner’s book is designed to do. For personal assessment, Romaner states, “When you use self-measurements to provide information, you have a wider array of possibilities to choose from that can eliminate the negative emotional drag on your creative process as well as spur you towards your goals” (107-108). Since my goals are to be a successful writer, I need to be more focused on accentuating self-confidence and deemphasize self-deprecation.
I have Romaner (and my sister) to thank for this. Romaner talks in her book about laying the ground work for an environment that is conducive to your dreams, to make the universe work with you rather than against you. I posted about my rejection and my plan of action (specifically, to get more feedback on the story so that I can continue to revise it and include it in my upcoming short story collection) to my Facebook page and was delighted to receive a few offers to critique the story from other writers that I didn’t expect. In addition, the experience prompted me to seek out a like-minded critique partner, something I’ve wanted to do for a while, as well as put in an application to join a critique group. Since I have been isolated for so long, it was both scary and refreshing to be able to connect with other people at last. And I am making more of an effort to seek out books in my genre so that I can support other writers and validate my own belief that there is a place in the literary world for the kind of fiction I love to write.
Maybe rejection, then, is a matter of perception.
Romaner, Kim Marcille. The Science Of Making Things Happen: Turn Any Possibility Into Reality. Novato: New World Library, 2010. Print.