Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rejection: How I Dish It, How I Take It


Lifehacker posted "Nine Practices to Help You Say No Without Feeling Like a Jerk" yesterday. I initially ignored it, because I have no problem saying no, and even HALE NO when warranted.

I developed this ability by working at a nonprofit for three years. Nonprofits tend to be chronically underfunded and filled with clueless eager beavers. After being sent to the Armpit of Asia twice to be a mobile Staples, I gave a hard pass when offered yet another chance to get a skin infection/ be followed by strange men/ find fire ants in my bed/ not sleep for a month. Soon after that, I gave my job the ultimate NO by scarpering to a for-profit.

My say-no-ability, which we shall call my NObility, became part of my established style of answering questions and/or explaining, which goes like this: MAIN IDEA > MAJOR DETAILS > MINOR DETAILS. I learned this technique while teaching reading comprehension to kids with special needs/learning difficulties in Philly. We would read a short passage, then they had to tell me what the main idea was, and recall the other details I asked about. Prioritizing the gestalt in this way influenced my methods of communication.

For instance, if Fiancé asks me if I want to play a board game I don't care for, I immediately say, "No. I don't want to. That game is too needlessly complicated." Parsed, that answer gives the rejection first, followed by what I consider the more important bit, namely my lack of desire to participate. Then, because I am generous, I add the secondary reason: the lameness factor.

By the same token, I get annoyed when I ask a "yes/no" question, and don't get the "yes" or the "no" as the first part of the answer. An example of such a question would be, "Do you want to volunteer for a charitable organization?" Folks, that is a "yes/no" question, and the answer is "HALE NO," thank you for asking, I am a spawn of evil and volunteering is against my nature.

NObility must be used after thoughtful consideration. I never say no in my current office, because I like it here, and, more importantly, I never get asked to do anything ridiculous or wildly beyond my job description. But in my personal life, I use my NObility freely, because Me Time calls dibs on everything. I do consider what I would be missing by saying no, like it says on #8 on the Lifehacker article, but nap time/mealtime/video game time will always weigh heavier in my cost-benefit analyses.

Also, I am a sucker for reviewing and editing grad school personal statements, so fear not! -- my NObility will gladly take a break so that I may read about your horrible childhood experience that led you to your shining academic career. Did I mention I'm a spawn of evil?


Throughout my life, various people and events seemed to point to my becoming a fiction writer. First, my family encouraged my growth as a bookworm. My dad read The Hobbit and Watership Down to me, and contributed funds to my girlhood comic book collection (mostly X-Men and X-Factor). My mom allowed me to fill my closets with Sweet Valley books instead of clothes. My grandmother introduced me to the mammoth Wheel of Time series. My siblings actually read this blog. (!)

Later in life, my friends and Fiancé encouraged me to write and try to get my stuff published. With my solid experience as a bookish nerd growing up, and my current official job title as "Proposal Writer" (proposals for government contracts, not marriage), I thought I'd give it a go. I started in 2011 with a piece called "The Marshmallow Test." I submitted it to Funny Women on The Rumpus. Reeeee-jected!

I tried again last year. I thought I'd start with short stories, so I looked at the stuff on tor.com, McSweeney's, and Flash Fiction Online. I wrote something for each site. Rejected, rejected, and also: rejected! It burned because I admired the stories on those websites. Being rejected meant I sucked, or my fictions didn't fit their publishing themes. Or both.

Undaunted, I moved on to writing contests in late 2012. I entered the ones that cost money (for judges' reading fees and prizes, I'm told). They didn't break my bank; the highest entry fee was 20 bucks. I tried Boston Review, Women on Writing, New Millenium Writings, Columbia Journal, and Literary Juice. I haven't heard back from any of them yet. But I like to prep for the worst possible scenario, so in in the "Result" column in the spreadsheet where I track my writing submissions, I already wrote "rejected" in bold. That way, I get my depression and self-loathing out of the way in advance!

By the way, I discourage anyone from submitting to the Columbia Journal, because their payment portal blows extremely hard. It looks like they don't have their own dedicated portal, so they piggybacked off the one that takes payments for university events. So if you find yourself confused about why you're paying for a performance with a different date from the writing contest deadline -- I WARNED YOU.


I readily dish out rejections in my personal life, and also in office settings when appropriate.

I get rejected a lot.

I guess that evens it out.


A green balloon on my desk. Don't ask.

Summer Book Recommendations