Saturday, March 8, 2008

The History of Rejection

Rejection has been with us since our very beginnings; it could be termed an innate human quality. I think it's high time we embraced rejection, rather than, you know, rejecting it.

Scientists theorize that the very earliest communities of homo-sapiens were non-verbal*, but as social structures and patterns developed, the use of rocks, fallen branches, and other blunt objects as modes of communication became, understandably, marginalized. So came the need for a new form of rejection; one that could hurt but not injure another member of the community. Thus, language was born.

So it is probable that mankind's first real word, as with many toddlers, was "No!".

No plays an important part in all of human culture, and is to be found as a pivotal element in the oldest stories and religions. What were God's first and second interactions with Adam and Eve (not to mention several more thereafter)? To forbid, and to punish. Both are versions of the Eternal No.

Once you start looking for it, you'll realize that No is everywhere. The ten commandments are all versions of No, with the exception of the fourth and fifth (keep the sabbath; honor your parents), which, as two of the things people are most likely to want to say no to, represents an implied no as well (ie, God gets to say no, not you.)

But in this, as in publishing, no amount of No seems to have the desired effect. One imagines Jesus talking to the angels and saying, "What the hell is wrong with these people? We post the guidelines, but do they read them? And don't even talk to me about conferences. The last time I was down there, every blasted 'disciple' had to write a frickin' book about it, and most of it rhymed! Practically made my ears bleed. Ah, frick, and here's another prayer from Pat Robertson. I hate agents who want to talk about every last line of the contract."

* I'm totally making this up.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

So funny!

christine tripp said...

So it is probable that mankind's first real word, as with many toddlers, was "No!".

Yep, babies first word "NO", then comes "da da", mothers just can't catch a break!

Parents use "NO" a lot as well and then graduate to "Maybe" or "We'll see". Translated to AD speak, "we have filed your samples", in other words, maybe, we'll see, which really mostly means NO but in a non confrontational way:)

Anonymous said...

What about editors you've got a relationship with who don't say no? Who sit on manuscripts for months and ignore or overlook polite queries/nudges?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think rejection has been good for me. I'm a tougher, better writer because of it.

ChristineEldin said...


Love this post!!

ChristineEldin said...

heh heh! Me too, Ellen. My work now has an edgy quality that it lacked before.

Judy said...

Funny! But it sounds as if you have had a bad day/week...

Christy Lenzi said...


Mary Witzl said...

Rejection has been hell on me. But my humility is alive and flourishing and big enough to fill Texas.

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