This one time, I got hit in the face with a horse.
I don’t know how else to explain it. I twelve and riding my first horse at my first horse show when my horse, Misty, hit me in the face. To be fair, she was very young and therefore very brainless, so when she thought she saw something move in the ring (a leaf maybe) while we were warming up, she panicked. She sort of jumped to the left, threw her head down and snorted (horses do the snorting thing a lot when they’re freaked out). But see, when she did that, I came up out of the saddle a little, just a few inches from her neck. Something scared her a second time though and she threw her neck back and BAM hit me square in the face – or square in the mouth, I guess.
On impact, she knocked my four front teeth out of my mouth. Well, completely out of my gums. (I hope you’re not eating and reading this, sorry if you are!). The thing was, I had braces and the annoying wiring that I always complained about kept my loose teeth from hitting the dirt.
Because I was bleeding everywhere, I was asked to get off the horse, which I reluctantly did. I was then promptly rushed 90 minutes to an oral surgeon. I never cried, never whimpered. I just told my dad, “I’m glad it’s my mouth and not my arm, because if it was my arm, I couldn’t ride.”
He told me to stop talking.
After the x-rays told us that nothing else in my face was broken, the surgeon put all my teeth back in my mouth and sent me home. But I wasn’t going home.
“We have to go home,” my dad said.
Obviously, he’d forgotten there was still a horse show going on and my horse was still at that horse show.
“They’ll take care of her,” he assured me.
Um, no. That was my horse, she was my responsibility and I loved her. Plus, my other friends still had classes to show in, I wanted to watch them.
“The show is 90 minutes away,” he said.
So? We had a car. I wanted to go back to that show.
Since you don’t argue with the girl who’s just been smacked in the face by a horse, my parents drove me back to the horse show. I watched the remainder of the classes, assured my friends that I was pretty much okay, played with my horse, wrapped her legs and helped get her get loaded onto the trailer. A couple months later, I was cleared to ride her again.
What does this have to do with writing? Everything.
I loved (and do love) horseback riding. And when I was twelve, I loved that little horse. We practiced in our lessons, we learned together, we were a team. But our first time out at a show together was literally a disaster. Though I never cried or blamed the horse, it was still awful and a little humiliating – it happened in front of all my friends and my parents and my trainer.
But the next day, I still loved my horse and riding just as much as I always had. I didn’t turn around and sell her. I didn’t stop riding. I didn’t stop showing. Even though there was a possibility that I could get hit again, I still saddled her up.
That experience made me tougher. It made me a better rider. You think I come up out of my seat in a saddle anymore? You think I stop paying attention to how a horse is reacting to an environment? No. I learned not to do those things.
It’s the same for writing.
As a writer, rejection will always be there to hit you in the face, maybe even hard enough to knock out your four front teeth. It might rattle you, maybe catch you off guard. But you know what? It’s all right. It’s happened to every writer before you (and me). Take it, learn from it and give it another go. I have learned, no one rejection can define you as a writer, but if you let it, a rejection can sharpen you. If the person rejecting you has advice, listen to it, take it into consideration. Sometimes people give really good constructive criticism. If someone rejects you with no advice, let it fuel you, let it make you that much more determined to succeed.
Rejection does not mean failure. I think, you only lose – you only fail – if you won’t get back in the saddle because you’re afraid you might get hit again.
Originally posted on Caitlin’s Tumblr