Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.
– Isaac Asimov
By no stretch of the imagination am I immune to fear of rejection (just like I am apparently not immune to using cliches), but it is not a significant issue for me in this context. I count among both my strengths and my weaknesses my ability to empathize. If you have ever been in a position to hire someone and received over 100 resumes, you can empathize with literary agents too … except, imagine you were receiving 50-100 resumes every day, all the time. Out of pure necessity, as a survival or coping mechanism, you would use any reason to set a resume on the NO pile. If you’re receiving 50 resumes a day, one of them must fire on all cylinders (see there, no fear of cliches) just to make it to the MAYBE pile. As the NO pile gets higher and higher, the odds that there are people in that pile that would have impressed you in an interview and been great employees increase. If thinking about this does not cause you to experience empathy for literary agents, it should, at a minimum, make it easier not to take a form letter rejection personally. I guess I should add that if you are taking every rejection personally for more than a few moments, that state of mind is likely reflected in other aspects of your approach to the whole process of publishing and you’re inserting rejection into your queries somehow. Just my opinion.
Fear of rejection is not, to my mind, the same as discouragement. For me, discouragement doesn’t come from rejections piling up, it comes from the lack of any forward movement. My solution for this is to always be writing something else so I’m experiencing progress and accomplishment over here while rejections are coming in over there.
As I write this it is early in the game and I only have two rejections so far, early entries in what will be a long journey. But the list will grow and while I’m not exactly celebrating each one, I am acknowledging that each one represents researching an agent, preparing a query, learning a little more about publishing, and moving forward.