I have a lot of experience with rejection.

You’d think that would be a bad thing, but it’s actually a triumph. I’m proud of my rejections in the same way a warrior is proud of his scars, but with one important difference: every painful scar brings the warrior closer to the end of his career as a soldier, while every rejection makes me a more effective and knowledgeable combatant.

The struggle for publication sets you up to be rejected over and over, but as conventional wisdom says, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Yeah, that’s a cliché, but if there’s one thing clichés are good for, it’s getting through the tough times.

And getting rejected means you’re submitting, and submitting means you have enough confidence in your work to slap it down on an agent or editor’s desk and brave their opinion, for better or for worse. It also means you’re doing the work, pounding the pavement like a Fuller Brush salesman with a high-maintenance wife and a family of five.

Here’s another cliché for you: Every Mr. Wrong is keeping you from finding Mr. Right.”

True in romance; true in writing.

Every submission to an agent who doesn’t love your work is holding you back from finding that perfect match: the agent who “gets” you, the agent who will wave your manuscript triumphantly under the noses of editors and tell them this is exactly what they’re looking for; the agent whose enthusiasm will be so contagious that editors will leap from their laptops screaming,”Yes! Yes! Yes!” like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.””

After a while, I almost looked forward to the no’s.” Getting rejected was kind of like using up a bottle of shampoo. Yeah, that shampoo is kaput, but you get to go out and try another brand. Maybe this time, you’ll find The One–the magic formula that smells really good, perks you up in the morning, and makes your hair look like liquid satin.  

Yeah, that old shampoo was just holding you back.

So keep submitting, and keep shampooing. Sooner or later, if you try hard enough and learn from your rejections, you’ll be a published author with really sensational hair. 

(The ecstatic shampooer above is Gregg O’Connell. See more of his shots on http://www.flickr.com/photos/greggoconnell/. He has cute dogs with bad haircuts and looks good in a dress.)