My Bittersweet Affair…With Rejection

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Beware to those who think all I do is blog and eat bonbons all day…

I really do write.  At this point, I am a short story writer; what I’m not is a successful short story writer.  This means that rejection is a part of my daily (or at least weekly) life.

A very wise writer friend of mine reminded me recently that a lot of writers get enough rejections to wallpaper an entire room before they achieve success.  I wish I had a studio that needed wallpapering because the rejections are piling up.  At least I can take heart in knowing that in befriending rejection, I’m not alone.  And befriend rejection I must.  As a writer, I must absorb the rejection without letting IT consume ME.  I must take it in but I don’t have to feed it.

I’m sure other writers have all sorts of tricks for coping.  My tricks involve denial and avoidance. When I get an email from a literary magazine, my heart skips a beat.  I immediately get out of my chair without opening the message.  I get busy – making a sandwich, putting wet clothes in the dryer, petting the neighbour’s cat….anything to keep me away from my computer.  Eventually I come back, inhale deeply and open the email.

Most editors are pleasant enough – given the amount of submissions they get, I’m surprised they can say anything beyond “NO!”  The emails are brief and cordial.  “We enjoyed reading your story; however, at this time we are unable to publish it…” or “Thank you for sending us your work; however, your story is not what we’re looking for right now…” I’ve had weird rejections that said, “This was incredible!  Great job!  We loved it!  But…”  Those are puzzlers.

I try to send my work to publications where they might be a good fit.  I read the submission guidelines and the editorial comments very carefully – I don’t just throw the spaghetti onto the wall to see if it sticks (although I’ve been tempted out of sheer frustration).  The editorial process remains something of a mystery to me.  Only the editors know what they want; my job is to write.  And, trust in myself.  Admittedly, this is hard to do when the pile of rejections grows ever thicker.

The important thing is to not give up.  Never give up!  The time will come when I inhale deeply, open the email, and read something like “Dear Writer, Your story really spoke to us and we’d be pleased to include it in our Spring Fiction Edition…”  Of course, I might be so excited I’ll forget to exhale…

Until that glorious day, I am tempted to treat rejection like a dog; I will teach it to heel and sit quietly at my feet.  I can’t let it jump up and slobber all over me.  I can’t fight with it either because rejection has teeth – it can hurt me if I let it overpower me. When success comes I’ll be ready for it.

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