Writing a novel and having it out on submission, waiting for a magical acceptance, is not unlike the whole college application process. I say this with personal knowledge, as I have just undergone both in the last year, though the latter was for my son, but both processes are not for the faint of heart and carry with them equal highs and lows, excitement and heartbreak.
You see, your book is like your child too. You've created it, nurtured it along, infused it with essential elements and love, and released it to the world, hoping it can stand on its own two feet and that the world will be kind to it, celebrating its strengths and rewarding it accordingly. You can lock on to any agent or publisher (or college) and think: this is it! This is the one. Life would be so fantastic if this opportunity was the one that came through. And with each rejection, each let down, its as if air is going out of the balloon. It was hard enough to go through this kind of scrutiny with my own book, but watching my child go through this agonizing process was debilitating, especially when you see other books (or people) get through the gates you want to burst through. It can't help but feel personal, and make one wonder why their best wasn't good enough for some.
But just as is so for college, it is true for publishing: There is a place for everyone. There is an audience for everyone. And the place you think you want to be may not be the best place for you at the end of the day in this period of time. It doesn't mean it's forever out of reach, it just means you might have to do things a little differently in order to get there. And above all, it doesn't mean you've failed. The universe works in mysterious ways, and often in retrospect we can see why things unfolded the way they did and how we benefited from it in the long run. As my grandmother used to say, "the delay is never the denial."
We are so hung up on prestige in this world. The prestigious publisher vs the small house that may actually give the author or the book more attention. The bigshot agent with an impressive roster vs. the lesser-known one with less clients who may actually take more time to work with us. The fancy college vs. the lesser known one with the better program and smaller classes with greater opportunity to get hands-on. When we don't get what we want, we quickly can lose sight of the real achievements in play; the fact that YOU WROTE A NOVEL! Not something everyone can do. That you queried and found someone who believed in you and your work and wanted to try and help you sell it. That a publisher believed in your story and felt it deserved a place on the shelves. Or that you got into a college, not something everyone can achieve. The hard work, the perseverance, the opportunity . . . these are the things that matter, not the forum in which they see fruition. We get out of things what we put into them, and if they don't play out according to the script in our heads, we can let it defeat us or define us. The choice remains ours. We are not as powerless as we may think in that moment.
Life is about learning, and all of these moments of not getting what we want are the true opportunities for growth, experience, and pushing us forward, should we choose to accept the challenge, to work harder. The path may not be what we expected, but it does not mean that the rewards we want cannot be ours for the taking if we continue to persevere. Embrace YOUR path. See where it takes you, and don't let the path others are on distract you from the view on yours.