What do you do with them, the long-awaited, always neatly printed messages that arrive at last in our own familiar envelopes, to turn our hopes to ashes at a glance? I doubt you throw them away. If you're like me, you put them somewhere out of the way, to languish in the dark with others of their spotty kind. A friend of mine once papered a guest lav with rejections from the New Yorker, patiently varnishing them up one at a time. It was quite impressive when done, and it didn't take that long. Probably raised the property value, too. By the time the upstairs was papered he'd almost succeeded in drinking himself to death, but he got it done. Both.
One certainty: no matter what you do with them, nothing will make them hurt less. And that's the question I'm asking here. How do people handle that pain, administered with less than numbing frequency but repeatedly, predictably, with no quarter earned by prior success? Even the most successful writers face it all the time.
Do we begin to think of the rest of the world as a parade of idiots who wouldn't recognize quality if it stepped on them at the beach? Or do we begin to think of ourselves as idiots, and go back and tear our lovingly crafted work to bits, trying to reassemble the shards into something that might approximate "what they want?"
I myself simply withdrew from the market. I didn't stop writing, excepting short periods, but I didn't send anything out. The poems of mine that Pundy put up were the only things I'd sent anywhere for almost twenty years. Now granted, poems are different than fiction. Poets have no real prospects to begin with. And we like it like that, strangely. But for others abandoning the market is a non-starter. So, what do you do?
C'mon. 'Fess up.