I've been reading http://www.rejectioncollection.com/, where people post the decline letters they've received and talk about how the letter made them feel.
"How it made them feel"?! Hoo-hoo!
Thus, today's list:
1. Rejection letters are the opposite of personal. They might even be the inverse.
2. The people who write them are sometimes wrong.
3. Most of the people who write them are nice, and not trying to make you angry or suicidal.
4. The rest are not interested enough in you or your manuscript to offer you any real advice.
rules 3 and 4 mean that
5. Most rejection letters are a long, long way from direct, forthcoming, or meaningful.
which means that
6. Most rejection letters mean nothing. Nothing. (Except that you can cross that publisher/agent off the list.) You need to internalize this fact however you can. Chant it in the bathtub. Write it backwards on your forehead. Listen to a tapeloop of it while you sleep. No matter what the editor/agent says, no matter what words they use, rejection letters mean nothing.
7. The only possible exception to rule 6 is specific constructive criticism.
a. if it is not specific, it means nothing.
b. if it is not constructive, it means nothing.
c. if it is not criticism, it means nothing.
rules 6 and 7 mean that
8. Ignore the flattery. Ignore the snark. Ignore the polite phrases that may be new to you, but trust me, have been repeated so many times by the person who wrote that letter that her boyfriend knows them by heart from hearing them muttered in her sleep night after night. Ignore, in the end, the rejection.
This, readers, is how to approach rejection letters. Absorb this, go forth, and prosper.