I looked at my first story submission rejection email. And I smiled. And I rejoiced. And I am totally sane.
So much of the world is a perception that has been filled in our heads, first by the society and then by our experiences. There are subjects we think we can feel or expect to feel because we have been told about them. And while these descriptions are often true, the way we truly feel is something only we can uncover.
“You’ll never know unless you have your own kids.” “You’ll never know till you start earning.”
We are often reminded. Because it is an experience reserved only for us.
And there are many experiences we never have, all of them we cannot have. We operate solely under the circumstances of bounded rationality. We suffice most of the time. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Human lives are about sufficing, that is what makes it every bit interesting.
Then what about failure? What about the volcanic outcry of pain that precedes failure? Or so we are told.
If we evaluated failure as a concept, as a word that simply means not being able to attain a goal and isolate all emotional feelings, who is to say it will be bitter? May be you’d find it sweeter? or salty? or 132 other adjectives that strike your head- positive, negative and neutral.
I had failed. And I am surprised it did not bring me down, like it normally should have. I could have been distracted in the middle of an examination or a pile of spammed mail that had almost eaten up a rather important one. There could have been 302 other variables that jumped and played inside my head. But I have isolated much of these extraneous elements to realize that I was actually delighted to fail in that moment.
When little children fall down and hurt themselves, right before they begin to cry from the burning pain inside, our elders pounce in and say “you’ll be taller now”. A wound on my leg meant I’d grow taller, a leg ache meant I’d be one inch closer to the stars.
Of course none of us grew in direct proportion to all these folklores, but it kept us from crying and falling apart so many times. Falling flat on the ground did not need to hurt, it could mean something good. We saw for the first time that what we felt at the moment necessarily did not need to hold the same results, and vice versa.
Then why have we come to dread failure as a monster bought to life right from the frankenstein movie? Why haven’t we told ourselves, that it could be something very different from what we’re feeling?
Stephen King failed. And he cherished his rejections. The day when his novel Carrie credited his bank accounts with $200,000, he was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room receiving the phone call that would change his life, at least financially. But he was always a writer at heart, nothing changes that, not his early rejections, neither the $200 short short stories he wrote to breakeven or the millions that followed. It was his book, On Writing, that challenged me to look at writing and failure rather differently. Combined with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I’d just discovered paradise.
If you’ve just tasted a hot pepper and can’t seem to handle it, run for the sweets! If you’ve hit rejection, run towards improvement and learning. It is the taste of the final delicacy that lingers on your tastebuds.
These are all a set of concepts that run down our heads, and yet when it boils down to failure we see of it as something much beyond the parameters of a simple concept. We’ve been told it hurts, we’ve been directed to fear and punishing ourselves. Certainly, feel the emotions, but don’t let them eat you up.
We’ve always been told, it’s bitter, perhaps it is time to discover our own unique flavors.
This is the first flavor I have discovered with my conscious mind, that failure can be more than bitter images and hurtful emotions. I am convinced there are more to come. I’d like to cherish my writing rejection, by simply writing more. There’s nothing more appropriate to do.
Now, a rejected but ever hopeful writer,
Photograph of the sky of Kamalanagar, Sindhuli, captured from the bus park as a bunch of balloons from a near by street vendor flew right across.