On Dividing Into Two Distinct Selves (Take 2)

Let me try this again.

I was a little despondent yesterday, having had the full of my manuscript rejected from an agent.  It happens, and it happens to everyone (well, mostly everyone), and it happens a lot.

The experience of rejection has always been hard for me, which is why I try not to let myself get excited.  But it’s hard not to.  When I’ve applied for a poetry book contest, a fellowship, a job, an agent, or submitted stories, plays, and poems to magazines, and there is some positive response that could be a YES in the making, then I can’t help dreaming.

Here is an example:

1. I research an agent before submitting to them.  Here I cover the basics: what they’ve sold, what kind of projects they represent, and what their reputation is (Absolute Write being a good resource for this, as well as countless other things).

2. I submit to the agent according to their guidelines (query or query plus pages or query plus pages plus synopsis or chocolate) and then attempt to forget that I submitted to said agent.

3. I wait.  I attempt to forget again.

4. Agent responds asking for more information: more pages (a partial) or the entire manuscript (a full) and I send it.

5. I research everything I can about said agent.  I read interviews (if I haven’t already).  I find them on twitter.  I stalk their blog.  None of this helps me in terms of waiting or knowing whether they’ll like my manuscript, but it does help me get a better idea of the agent as a person (at least in regards to their public persona, the face they show to the world, which is all I’ll really be concerned with anyway).

6. I realize that I really like the agent’s public persona.  I can imagine how it would be to interact with said agent.  Having read testimonials by the agent’s current clients, I place myself in such a position and dream of, well, having an agent.  Also, I try to forget that the agent has my materials since they take, on average, three months to get back to you, dontchaknow.

7. A rejection comes.  I have to disassemble those dreams piece by piece.

Here is where the Dividing Into Two principle comes into play.

When I was going through my MFA, an editor came by to talk with all the current MFAs about their poems.  This editor (I believe it was C. Dale Young, but my memory is notoriously… I don’t remember) said that it is important to see what you’ve written from the perspective of both a writer and an agent.

As a writer, you write.  Sure, you worry about whether what you’ve written is good, and you do your best to revise all of what you think of as bad out of your writing.  Once you can stand to read what you’ve written in the cold light of day, then you hand it over to the agent.

And who is the agent?  You are.  And the agent’s job is to send out the work that the writer gives them until it is accepted for publication or has been completely rejected by the publishing community.

It is easy to see rejection as a statement that what you’ve written isn’t worth reading.  But as a writer, you can’t let that stop you.  When a rejection arrives in the mail, that simply means that you have to send what was rejected back out to the next market or the next agent.  Otherwise, you might be seduced into not sending out again and again and again and again until, lo and behold! you have an agent who wants to represent your current novel and future novels!

And now that you have an agent, dealing with submissions and rejections is their job.

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