It might be strange to combine “rejection” and “encouraging.” They seem antithetical to each other. I suppose they usually are, but I’ve been remembering one of the earliest rejections of my work, and I think it was encouraging.
I say “think” because I don’t remember all the details. I was nine years old, and I decided to proffer the school library with my first book. Hand-written, complete with my own illustrations (Now why does that sound familiar? Oh, right. I do the same thing here, although the words are typed, and the illustrations are edited in Photoshop first.). Even better, my book came with a stapled binding and a construction-paper cover.
Naturally, the librarian rejected my book. I don’t remember what she said, but I do know that my work wasn’t accepted. I also know she must have said something encouraging because I didn’t avoid her for the rest of third grade. I still enjoyed going to the library, and I still greeted her.
I look back at that incident and wonder about the details I didn’t know and can’t remember. I wonder if my mom encouraged me to submit my work even though she knew rejection and failure were the inevitable outcomes. I wonder if she warned the librarian of my impending visit. I wonder what the librarian thought. Did she have a response for me immediately? Did she give me the appearance of consideration by sending me away so that she could consider my work? I’m almost certain that’s what happened, but I may be inserting a little more fiction than necessary into my memory. I also wonder about how I reacted. Did I cry? Was I embarrassed? I probably was embarrassed, and I probably did cry. I know, though, that the rejection was encouraging because I kept writing. I continued to find pleasure in it. I still do.
Have you ever been the recipient of encouraging rejection? Did it help you to continue creating?