Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Accepting Rejection

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Accepting Rejection

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” ― Ray Bradbury

I've been thinking a lot about the experience of being "rejected" and getting "accepted" and the strange similitude between those experiences. There is a shared bitter-sweetness of both experiences, primarily because I think rejection has a way of teaching grace while acceptance can lead to new levels of egoism. One way to consider it: rejection as not to teach, or preach, or reach our consciousness at some deeper level, but to serve as a reminder that we are successfully trying. Rejection as a reminder that we are trying to pinch the nerve of success, and that we will get there eventually. Rejection as an instructor in the art of refinement, of revision, and in that sense, the value of re-envisioning what you began with so you won’t need to give in to the asphyxiation of woe-is-me due to lack of belief of others on the basis of first or second draft.

In one's work, creative work or otherwise, the market always dictates, and so one must submit not only one’s work but one’s very self to the eyes of that market, whoever composes it. A spectrum of emotion happens between denial (i.e. I know I have talent) and acceptance (i.e. I know there is much I can work on). Yet not every “no” is equal, and that in itself should be an incentive to keep going. Being rejected somewhere is a turning of your work towards a set of aims and eyes elsewhere. A rejection, an honest critique, is gold--and nothing should necessarily tarnish this, even if the ego has been chipped away in the process.

I want to invoke Michelangelo here--that the essence of the artist is to keep chipping away, until they "[see] the angel in the marble and [carve]" until it has been “set free.” Rejection encourages the will to will. To want to resubmit to the point where the victory is not to face the rejection successfully via dismissal but merely face the subjective nature of rejection itself.

There is a pathological response to rejection that says, "I am not affected by them saying 'no'." Yet the trick is that we must be affected (i.e. affect is important), just not to the extent where we succumb to some false feeling of being lesser-than. Every writer who has ever written and submitted a document has gone through all of this--there is no unique insight I attempt to give here. Though I want to truly gage the possibility of value in rejection itself, maybe in order to surpass its value. Having one's work accepted/appreciated/loved/cherished would be an antidote to the broken glass that every writer needs to proverbially walk on in order to feel their words authentically. No need to romanticize the roadmap of rejection that follows the average writerly career, but rather, a need to make an itinerary of the writer’s difficult efforts that will, must flower, no matter what.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Adebe DeRango-Adem

Adebe DeRango-Adem is a writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo, was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is also the co-editor, alongside Andrea Thompson, of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out. She was recommended by current Poet Laureate of Canada George Elliott Clarke as a young black "writer to watch".

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