Frankly Bunky, no one gives a damn
If you write, however, rejection is part of your daily life.
In the closing moments of the film version of the story "Gone With the Wind," Rhett tells Scarlett the marriage is over.
Scarlett, devastated, pleads for him to reconsider.
"Rhett, Rhett! Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?"
And Rhett replies, "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn."
The words were cruel, irreversible and familiar.
When my manuscript is turned away, when my screenplay denied, my essay rejected and my proposal ignored, the dismissal can feel as complete and final as the end of Ms. O'Hara's marriage.
Frankly, no one gives a damn. .
Nor does the life of a writer. For those of us who take this whole thing seriously, rejection becomes an expected part of the writing experience. We use it. Rejection becomes fodder for short story, juice for commentary, the inspiration of the next scene in a stage play.
When I was a little girl, I decided I wanted to be famous.
I wasn't concerned about how this would come to pass. Maybe I'd grow to be a star on television like Lucille Ball. Perhaps I'd wake one day to find myself a famous scientist like Margaret Mead. Or a wealthy fashionista like Gloria Vanderbilt.
In the meanwhile, I would learn to dance like Shirley Temple and dazzle everyone with my outlandish talent.
My parents enrolled me at Vavro's Dance Studio in South St. Paul, and I started my short climb to fame.
One day another little girl appeared at Vavro Studio. Joyce was younger than I, cuter perhaps, with deeper dimples and a wealthy father.
Overnight, I lost everything.
I was a little girl and this, of course, was hard for me to understand. One afternoon at the studio, when Joyce was asked again to show us all the right way to do the "step-buffalo," I threw myself into a full-blown pout.
My humiliated mother pulled me aside.
"Who do you think you are?" she asked. It was one of her favorite questions.
"No one," I answered. My favorite answer. It usually ended the back and forth that was to become our banter.
This time,however, my mother was not satisfied with my response. She pushed for more.
:"You are not 'no one,' young lady." she said. "But you are not the only one either."
And so it came to pass that my mother imparted one of the first hard lessons of childhood. Kristine Holmgren is not the center of the universe.
The world, she said, is larger than Kristine Holmgren. Each of us has a part to play in the unfolding of the drama of life.
Sometimes the spotlight will shine on Kristine, she said. Sometimes the spotlight will shine on another little girl. This, said my wise mother, is right, good and the way things ought to be.
"Think of how awful your life would be if everyone worshiped you," she said. "You wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom without everyone worrying about you falling in."
I assured her that would never be a problem for me. I would take her with me, to make everyone feel better.
"You miss the point," she fussed. "Kristine, you cannot be the only special person. Everyone is special. Don't ever forget that."
Fame rises, fame fades. Spotlights grow dim and move to the next shining place.
Good things are followed by bad. No one gets everything all the time. Success, eventually, is followed by failure. .
:"So listen up, Missy," my mother wagged her finger in front of my pouting face, "snd make proud. Show these kids how classy you can be and step into the crowd so someone else can shine."
I remembered her words when, years later, I had lunch with the late Paul Gruchow.
A successful writer, wonderful teacher and sensitive man, Paul struggled with envy and bouts of self doubt.
"I don't want anyone to know," he said, "what I'm working on. My biggest worry is that someone will steal my idea."
Competition was everywhere, he said. Every time he slowed down, he sniffed it at his heels.
"When I'm rejected," he said, "someone else is accepted. That makes me crazy."
I don't see writing as a competitive sport.
When my work is rejected, my work is rejected. Period.
There's more where that came from and I keep writing.
No one wants to read my stuff today? That's okay. Perhaps someone will read what I write tomorrow. In the meanwhile, my craft is mine; no one can take it from me. My way of telling a tale, sharing a perspective, styling a paragraph;all of these things are unique to me. No one writes like Kristine Holmgren.
And no one writes as do you. That is why the literary world has room for you.
Think not? Think again.
Readers need us. Readers are hungry for whatever we manufacture and distribute.
Consider the life of an average reader. One book each month, perhaps; twelve books per year. Multiple that one reader by the number of readers in the universe. See? Start writing! .
And consider this - the average American reads two magazines each week, a newspaper (or two) in the morning. Some of this is online reading, of course - and who knows how much content is consumed on the internet. Market researchers have yet to develop appropriate instruments to measure and understand the ways in which our media and literature are currently consumed.
As a writer, you are part of a large chorus of contributors. By writing what you write, you meet a certain need, My writing is different from yours - and I meet another. Every writer has a right to be here, writing and sharing.
Rejection is a part of it all. You will be rejected many, many times. Nonetheless, your job as a writer is to strive to be good at your craft.
Your job is to write, every day, and keep writing.
Your job is to persevere, show up at the keyboard, keep your promises to yourself and your readers.
The rest, my dear, will take care of itself.
When rejection comes, accept it as affirmation that you are making a contribution, and that you are one step closer to the acceptance you crave.
After all, tomorrow is another day.