I spent the summer after my college freshman year selling books and Bibles door-to-door in a mill town of South Carolina. I got to meet everybody in town, from the mayor to the village prostitute (who also happened to be the third-grade teacher; but that's for another time).
Our sales trainer told us that we needed to collect enough rejection every day to be successful. According to him, a salesmen had to knock on an average of four doors to be invited inside, and make an average of five full presentations to close a sale. In other words, we had to knock on an average of 20 doors (and collect 19 rejections) to make a sale.
"Decide how many sales you need to make every day," he said. "Multiply that by 20. That's how many doors you need to knock on. If you don't collect enough rejection, you won't make your goal."
At the end of my first week, I tallied up my numbers to report to the home office. It was uncanny. I was right on average. Some days I had been "hot" and made a string of sales in the same neighborhood. Other days, no sales at all. But over the course of the week, I'd averaged a sale for every 20 doors I knocked on.
At one point, my sales slumped, so the sales manager called to review my numbers. "It's simple," he said. "You've not been knocking on enough doors. You've got to move faster. Leave your sample case at the apartment this week and take just three small samples with you; you'll be able to visit more homes and make faster presentations. Your sales will pick up."
He was right: It was my best-selling week of the summer!
No one likes to be rejected, least of all writers, because we invest a lot of ourselves in what we write. Yet rejection is a normal part of life, even the writing life. So when those SASE's show up in my mailbox, I recall that summer in South Carolina -- and reach for another manila envelope.