In life, all of us want acceptance and appreciation for who we are, as people. We continuously try to bend and twist ourselves according to changing social trends in order to fit in. But, nothing comes easy if it is worth something. We are constantly rejected every day, whether small or big. Sometimes it is unrequited feelings for someone or a bad break-up. Sometimes a friend doesn’t reply or broken friendships, hung-up conversations. Sometimes at workplace the boss rejects you or an editor rejects your writings. From rejected payment slips to ignored posts on social media to rebuffed attempts at helping someone, everyone faces this. Everyone hurts. That is the law of the universe. It can not accept all stars in one galaxy.
Us writers have a very beautiful relationship with feelings and words. Like the moon needs the light of the sun to shine, a writer needs words to exist. Some write for fun or as a hobby, some write as a refuge against others, some write for fame and money. Each writer has some sort of incentive. I started writing when the voices of people around me, made me lose my own. I write to compensate for a world where I don’t belong. I write because I get to live my dreams and be a person who is limitless and untamed, a feat I don’t think I can achieve in this life. Lastly, I write so that I don’t end up dead because my demons.
What cuts me deep every time is the rejection I face, not criticism. Like everyone else, I have an inherent need for a place to belong, where I don’t have to justify my existence at every step; where my actions won’t be evaluated to give me an identity. I have faced so many rejections yet each time is like the first time.
When I was in Class 9, I had developed a habit of scribbling down my thoughts in a notebook that I took with me everywhere. I had always been a dreamer, remaining lost in my head too often, a thousand thoughts at a single moment, of places I wanted to visit, people I wanted to meet. I wrote down random and unfinished trains of thought, deep-seated desires, stories reflecting my inner self and all the teenage angst that came with being misunderstood.
I never dared to show it to anyone, guarding it with everything in me. Once, I was writing a poem during a lecture. The teacher was my favourite, which I guess, led me to take liberties. She spotted me and asked me to bring my notebook with me. I obeyed with a wildly beating heart. She asked me to read some of my writings. My heart turned to lead. I was an extremely reserved girl. Sharing some of the innermost secrets in front of a class of 50 people, it was my worst nightmare. I kept on begging her and crying to let it by. She didn’t budge. That moment, I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.
When I didn’t respond, she snatched it and started reading aloud herself. As she kept on revealing layers and layers of my battered soul, I felt layers being peeled from my body. Like standing in rain, with no shelter. I looked around at the people, some were sympathetic, others were feeling disdainful despite not getting a single word I had written. Some were enjoying my anguish. When the teacher finished, she slammed the book on the table and turned towards me. She then went on to mock each and every thing that I had written. She called me unoriginal, pretentious, depressed. She even went on to say that I needed help and for that I shouldn’t ever write again. I had never been subjected to such kind of humiliation before. It broke me to extents I wasn’t aware of. It felt like everything that makes me was called a bluff.
At the PTA, she complained to my mother about my strange behavior, how I thought things like an adult when I shouldn’t, how I was wasting my time seeking attention. It was a replay of that day, all the parents along with their kids looked at me and scoffed at my mother. She looked so disappointed in me. Apparently, writing was a waste of time.
This rejection shattered all my beliefs in myself and in everyone around me. Writing was the thing that made me fearless and happy. But, I had become so scared of it, I stopped writing. I believed that I wasn’t meant for it, not good at it. Whenever I picked up my pen, I would sit hours without getting a single word out on the paper. Every hurtful word came back to me and made me feel inadequate. People around me never really let it go. It kept on reminding me how I was a freak for feelings and dreaming weird things. In some ways, it was even worse than bullying. I had no evidence of it.
It created an imbalance in my emotional stability. I kept bottling up my feelings or taking it out on the wrong person. I was a nightmare to myself and people around me.
It took me 2 years to be able to really write again. I realised that I was giving others the satisfaction of putting me down. I had an obligation towards my own self who deserved to be happy. Even then, I was cautious at first, wrote very secretly. I didn’t want to be in a place where my 14-year-old self had suffered. But, when feelings started coming out of the bonds, words started flowing on paper. I wrote and wrote until I had spilled every single thought I had in those last two years. It was difficult, but I coped with the myriad of emotions inside.
Rejection can cause wounds much severe than any kinds of physical pain, because they are on our soul where it doesn’t show but continuously bleeds. Some of the things I realised after putting myself out there waiting for some to take notice are:
1. Ruminations are self destructive: For a long time,I hated my teacher for doing that to me. I hated all those who returned my writings believing that they had something personal against me. It sent me in a downward spiral. I began questioning my abilities. Later, when I thought about it, I realised that I was limiting my creativity and damaging my self-esteem. I wasted time angsting about people who did something they believed was right. No one had any personal vendetta. But, patience is the key.
2. Always have hope and topics to work on: When I started writing after my hiatus, it was emotionally draining. I was constantly frustrated, I had so many things to say, but I had forgotten how to. So I started small; about seemingly insignificant topics such as something I liked, a dog I was fond of and many such things. Then I went on to write serious things that needed to be voiced out. Even today, when an article or story gets rejected, I already have at least four topics about which I am ready to write. It gives me hope that there is much more left to tell. It’s a thing I have chosen for myself.
3. Retrospection helps a lot: When we write something and later when we read it, our mental state may change. Some of my rejection letters said that I wasn’t a bad writer, per se, but I could use some technique. I looked back and found it right. Not every rejection is false. I learned that when someone says that something is wrong, they could be right. But, don’t believe them when they say what is wrong. Find it yourself. Rejection doesn’t define you.
4. There is nothing wrong with a person who writes: When I was rejected, I put all the blame on myself like there was something wrong with me; that I needed help. Even quitting didn’t seem to work out for me. Instead I got more frustrated with myself. I masked self doubt with self-loathing and contempt, which was wrong. I don’t really do that anymore. Otherwise I would succumb to the darkness inside of me. Yes, I feel bad and insufficient when my writings are not accepted. But, I know that I have a bigger responsibility about doing justice to my emotions who don’t belong in a dark corner sitting as regret.
5. Feel proud that you are brave: Not everyone who feels can write it. Sometimes fear of rejection overrules our need for relief. After each returned article, I read it aloud and feel happy that I am able to do something that gives me pleasure. I don’t let past rejections define what kind of a person I am. I channel my anger and hurt in my writings. People have preferences and I respect that. It doesn’t mean what I know and feel is wrong. Maybe someone else will find in it, what others find missing. Introspection helps too.
6. Helping others heal is productive: Once, I wrote something I loved to talk about and I knew about and when I submitted it, I was so confident of it getting accepted. Its rejection bruised my ego. During that time, when I was busy hating them and my own self, my friend lost her father. I had to be there for her, keeping her grounded so that she wouldn’t disintegrate and be swept away in sorrow and lose herself. It gave me a purpose, helped me along with her and I realised that what I had faced was so trivial in comparison to what she was going through. I still had hope. Sure, I was hurt but what was left was healing. And you heal when you try to close someone else’s wounds.
I think rejections shape you as a person, give you experiences and the impetus to try harder; sharpens your edges. Even now when I submit my writings, I feel both excited and nervous. Like I am baring myself to so many people who will scrutinise my emotions, my views, a part of me. It is scary. I check my mail ten times a day, waiting for that one feedback. The ignored responses hurt so much more than a simple rejection letter. The ‘No new messages’ seem to mock my efforts. But, now I have learnt to move on. I am a writer, who needs to be shameless. Words are things that make me powerful without having to hold a sword. Just believing does the work. I can create worlds if I want to, push my boundaries, do unimaginable things . Everyone has something to say and there are people waiting to hear it. No one can say when a writing strikes a chord within a person. They have the power to change lives like no other. A representation of our real selves. Words are my saviour and I won’t let them go now. I think my 14 year-old self would be proud of me.
“Your stories are a beautiful and truthful part of you, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”