As a writer there is an intrinsic part of this journey that cannot be avoided – unless you are a frikin’ unicorn. The rest of the 99.999% of us must query.
And querying is hard. No lie. As a writer, you hear ‘no’ a lot. And really – most, like 99% of the time, there is nothing personal in that rejection. Those quick ‘no’s I can handle. I do get tired of them, but I slog on.
Allow me a quick side step as I sidle up to my next point.
Querying is rather like auditioning for a role. And as every thespian knows You can be perfect. You can nail every line and every nuance in a role. And you can still lose out to someone else.
Even if you are perfect, if the director’s mental picture is a 6′ tall Amazonian with dark hair and eyes – and you just happen to be 4’8″ – chances are you are not going to get that job. You don’t fit.
Here’s the part as applied to querying – A rejection, (99% of the time) has absolutely nothing to do with your work. It has everything to do with fitting the agent’s needs. And the phrase – It just wasn’t a good fit – is very likely exactly the reason someone said ‘no’.
So I don’t sweat the rejections. Someone tells me ‘No’. Ok, thank you for your time. NEXT!
But– You knew one was coming, right?
There is a space where querying and some varieties of neurodiversity are completely at odds. Perhaps even dangerously in conflict.
People with forms of complex trauma and developmental trauma can suffer internal paradoxes. A common paradox revolves around being ‘seen’. Here is a quote from a post I wrote, trying to explain the dichotomy
Because people were dangerous. They put me in this cage and taught me they could not be trusted. In my cage, I was separate from them. I was alone. I was broken. I was voiceless. I was forgotten.CPTSD Paradox 1
And being forgotten by all the world made me safe.
It’s that fundamental ‘lizard brain’ saying “see me, take care of me.” And, at the very same time, it’s that fundamental ‘lizard brain’ saying “don’t see me, don’t hurt me.”
Ever heard of a no-win situation. I give you Example A: My brain.
How on earth does all this pertain to querying?
Complex trauma survivors can be triggered by things the rest of the world would see as non-events.
One querying aspect that sets off all the nasty internal fire alarms for me is the ‘Silent Rejection’. And something I’m noticing this time in the querying trenches compared to 2020, there are a lot more agents using the ‘silent rejection’.
You’ve seen them. Little notices on the agents bio, or profile, or in the agencies FAQ or About Us. They can even be buried in the ‘small print.’
“If you haven’t heard from us within six weeks it means we have passed on your project.”
Yeah, those things.
Why does not receiving a response have this immense impact?
Well, not receiving a response to a query, a silent rejection, trips that internal alarm that tells us we did something wrong.
Or worse, that we are invisible.
Or worse still, that we aren’t worth enough to even merit a reply.
See how insidious that whole train of thought is?
And this line of thinking is not rare. Many complex trauma survivors grew up constantly reading the environment for clues. So, when we don’t get feedback, our brain defaults to one of two positions. I’ve been left alone-abandoned/I’m not worth an answer. Those two states of mind, when we get trapped there, can be detrimental. And that is a full pound of sugar coating on that last statement.
So, if I can be so cool with a direct ‘no’ what’s the problem?
The problem is this-
Hearing nothing means I have vanished again. I am ‘overlooked’ and not important enough to even get a response. Not even a ‘no’.
Even a form rejection is better in my mind than that all-consuming silence.
That silence let’s all the monsters loose. The ones that whisper – ‘not enough.’
Not important enough for a form email.
Not important enough for a click of the mouse.
Literally, not important enough to raise a finger to push a button.
And a ‘silent rejection’ means that silence never ends. A ‘no’ even a one line form email that said ‘Thanks, but we pass’ would be infinitely better. It would give closure and end the worrying cycle of ‘maybe?’ answered by silence that throws those susceptible neurodiverse back into the downward spiral.
This line of thinking is not rare. Many complex trauma survivors grew up constantly reading the environment for clues. So, when we don’t get feedback, our brain defaults to one of two positions. I’ve been left alone/I’m not worth an answer. Those two states of mind, when we get trapped there, can be detrimental. And that is a full pound of sugar coating on that last statement.
I understand that agents are flooded, overworked, and doing more with less. I do ‘get’ that. And, equally, while I am sure writers would love a hand-lettered personalized rejection on linen-stock stationary with gold foil embossing every time, I know that is equally fantastical thinking.
I just wish, in a more perfect world, that agents could, would have the time to click a button and drop that ‘no’. Much as the ‘no’ is unpleasant, at least it leaves the demons in their box and leaves me with the feeling of being seen.