Celebrate your accomplishments. Persevere over rejection.
Creatives hear this advice with stunning frequency.
But we all know rejection sucks.
Rejection comes with being a creative, certainly so with writers. Rejection by editors. Rejection by agents. Rejection by potential employers, or worse, existing employers.
Rejection by readers.
When I attended the AWP writer’s conference in February, I sat in large audiences filled with hundreds of creatives, all of us intimate with with Mistress Rejection. We listened to the literary-journal editors’ consistent message:
Journals get a ridiculous amount of submissions. Some manuscripts are rejected due to lack of quality, others because they don’t fit the publication’s tone or other works selected for that issue. Individual taste may vary.
Despite all the talk of rejection, I left encouraged. I had never submitted to a literary journal. Having had hundreds of thousands of words published had not led me to believe I could assemble words worthy of such imprimatur.
But this is my year of change. I reminded myself that after two decades of denial I was at that time taking a creative writing class.
So I took a short work I wrote in that class and submitted it to a respected literary journal. Here’s the email I received from the journal Friday:
Dear Patrick Ross:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read “The Clear Monkey.” We found the writing lively and interesting and enjoyed reading it. After careful consideration, we’ve decided this manuscript isn’t right for us, but please consider sending other work in the future.
This is not our customary rejection. We hope you’ll keep us in mind.
Athletes often say it’s harder to lose a squeaker than to suffer a blowout loss. Here I was so close. This should be a crushing blow.
Instead I’ve been on a multi-day high. I printed out the rejection and showed it to my wife, to my daughter, to my son.
This week I intend to put the final polish on a second piece and send it to those editors. I’m keeping them in mind.
What’s your experience with rejection?
UPDATE, MAY 23, 2011: I just received my second response. Here’s this editor’s email: “Thank you for sending us ‘The Clear Monkey.’ I enjoyed the experimental point of view and the understated nature of your narrative. However, I wasn’t able to convince the other editors of this. Please consider submitting to us again? Thanks again. Best of luck with this!”
UPDATE, MAY 25, 2011: Third time’s the charm. I received an email today. This editor wrote: “Thank you for sending us “The Clear Monkey.” We love it and would like to publish it online. We’d like to also consider this piece for our magazine, our upcoming print and digital format edition. Please send us a short bio soon.” So a happy ending after all!