Monday, June 8, 2015

On Handling Rejection


Someone who knows about my publishing struggles asked recently how I handle rejection so gracefully. I found this question hilarious because in truth, I don't always handle it well.

Any time some of my work is rejected, I face a mini emotional crisis. (And let's be clear: this happens a lot. For every one thousand words I've published, I've written about fifteen thousand unpublished ones.) Rejection hurts, and there isn't really any way to keep it from hurting. 

There will probably always be a sting, but I've found that unless I pick my wounds, they tend to heal without festering. So I mope for a few minutes, then switch on the coffee pot, power up my laptop, and crank out a few thousands words just to keep my hand in. 

I think the process of recovery is aided by the fact that I do not consider my self-worth to be based on my writing, nor do I gauge my overall success in life by the state of my career. 

This is not true for many Americans, however. According to a study by the University of Phoenix, nearly half of all Americans report that career success contributes "equally or more" to self-worth than other factors, including family and personal lives. 

Yikes.

In a way, though, these numbers make sense. As ones created in God's image, we've been designed to work and enjoy working; however, because sin has tarnished the image of God in us, we're also capable of twisting this enjoyment into something it was never intended to be: the basis of our self-worth.

Real joy and fulfillment in work come as a natural outflow of God working through the gifts he's given, rather than us working to prove ourselves to him or the world. Timothy Keller is excellent on this point:
While ancient monks may have sought salvation through religious works, many modern people seek a kind of salvation--self-esteem and self-worth--from career success. ...But the gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. ...All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely; and by extension, a way to love our neighbor. (Every Good Endeavor)
God gave me the desire to write, and as I've learned to see the craft as a way to love God and serve my neighbor, I've become happier in the work itself and decidedly less mopey when I don't "succeed." 

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