(Recalling hearing I'd won the Scott Prize.)
As a writer, especially an emerging one, it’s important to befriend rejection. You’ll be spending a lot of time together, and, after an initial repulsion and incredulity at its presence, you begin, like an embarrassing illness or an annoying colleague, to accept it. Life would be strange without it. During low points you even expect it, some comfort drawn from its familiarity: Hello rejection, my old friend…
But occasionally, if you’re lucky, the cloud lifts and you remember why you started this in the first place. Not for fame or fortune (just as well). But because you believe you have something to say. That you want your work, your art, to affect others the way great fiction has affected/infected you. And so for this reason you continue to put yourself out there, to submit, to lay yourself open to terse, yet cordial responses: I’m sorry, we like your work but...
Competitions are the worst, because you’re aware of the numbers involved (sometimes thousands). And initially all you want to do is appear on the longlist. That would be enough. But then, once longlisted, if I could just make the shortlist, I would be happy. You keep busy. You self-deprecate. You’re told getting this far is an achievement in itself, just before you throttle the person who’s uttered this sagacious yet inane maxim.
And then, like Schrödinger's cat, you leave the email unopened in your inbox, fearful viewing it alone will alter the outcome. You almost ask someone else to open it, so blame can be shared. You dare to dream, but prepare for the worst.
But even friends as loyal and ubiquitous as rejection have days off.
(Keep going. Knock on enough doors...)