Life Log

Keeping Rejections Taped to a Wall Doesn’t Make Me a Serial Killer!

Did anyone watch Law and Order on NBC last night (it’s one of the few channels besides PBS and the ‘God’ channel we get in the house. Emily and I wonder if it will become the ‘all Law and Order all the time’ channel)? The basic premise was that a frustrated wannabe author writes a book about serial killers, gets rejected because ‘it’s not timely’ and then the author sets out to make it timely.

There’s this one scene where they find the guy’s apartment and break in, and find his study covered in rejection slips. “Interesting choice of wallpaper,” a detective says, and they all look at the slips and then back at each other with a sort of horrified look that implies: ‘what kind of twisted freak wallpapers his study with rejections?’

At which point Emily turns to me and says “Now do you understand why people who visited you in your dorm rooms were really freaked out by that?”

Hey, it wasn’t like I was nailing manuscripts to my wall made out of human parchment or something, I was just taping rejections to the wall. I can’t have been the only writer in history to do so.

Maybe it is that I live in a society in general that is scared to look at failure. Rejection really freaks people out. When I explain how many rejections I have people either assume I’m a really bad writer or I’m slightly weird.

But in order to succeed you will risk failure, or even encounter failure, and I really, really, wanted the success of writing. Bad enough to paper my walls with rejections.

It’s not scary, just determined.

And why the walls? Why not in a book or something?

For me each rejection was a concrete step forward, proof that I was working hard at being published. It wasn’t a wall of rejection, it was a wall of progress.

13 thoughts on “Keeping Rejections Taped to a Wall Doesn’t Make Me a Serial Killer!”

  1. I don’t wallpaper, but I’ve threatened to. I’ve gotten better at getting them (i.e. finally stopped crying everytime I got one) and I have a folder full of them.
    I heard wallpapering recommended. Now we have to worry about becoming serial killers? Damn.

  2. That’s hilarious. My wife said a guy from her work (who wants to be a writer) had a look at my website with its litany of reported rejections and asked her, “why does he get rejected so much?” My only response was, “he hasn’t sent any stuff out yet, has he?”

  3. And you know, Charlie Stross does recommend hovering on the edge of madness to get a lucky break in writing…

  4. Well, yeah, hence the sub-title of my site: walking the thin line between insomnia and insanity online since ’98 🙂 Long nights of typing and skipping out on sleep do produce a pretty wacked out Tobias, this is true 🙂

  5. I wonder if any writer *ever* relaxes. The next rejection is almost always in the mail, even when you are selling regularly to some markets. I bought one of those office spike things a couple of years back, and I’m about halfway to the top with impaled rejections. In the past I’ve stuck them on the wall, kept them in files, burned them in vaguely occult ceremonies. Writing fiction is a very tough way to go, and you have to overcome your natural aversion to rejection. One way of doing that is by keeping the rejection factor right *there* in plain view. I also keep a copy of my first check and acceptance letter in view, too. Balance, balance!

  6. Dude,
    Your wallpapering urge is absolutely normal.
    I have all my rejections neatly encased in plastic sleeves and filling binders. I am proud of them.
    The only reason I haven’t tried to wallpaper the walls is because I have my art on the walls, and no matter what, my canvases don’t fit in binders.

  7. If I was more organized, I might display my rejections. About the failure stuff though: Failure magazine was launched in 2000 if I remember right. Haven’t read it in a while, but they started out publishing some great stuff about people and ideas that failed, why they failed, and how they learned from their experiences. It was great stuff and it looks like it’s still going on. I agree. It’s something most people don’t want to talk about. That’s why so many things look impossible; we never see anyone else fail.

  8. Most people choose not to surround themselves with what they see as failure. On the other hand it meant you were trying and that was great. It’s just that you were pretty much a night owl, you kept to yourself for the most part, and sometimes lots of screaming and swearing came from your room (after a sale). Those things combined would cause people to worry.

  9. Here’s a creepy one for you: in an arson investigation class, we heard about a guy who was suspected of torching his house. Why was he a suspect? The investigators realized that the “wallpaper” in his house was actually hundreds of losing lottery tickets.

  10. re: Hannah’s comment: only an author could make going to jail sound positive in that manner! 🙂
    Jena: yeah, that is.

  11. Ooh, Alex, cool link to failure mag. In Crystal Rain I got inspired by wooden submarines and featured (albeit briefly) one, and Failure mag had an awesome early submarine inventor failure article. Very cool.

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