As writers we must learn to take rejection on the chin. It is far easier to say than do. But let me tell you what hurts more than rejection – a monstrous wall of silence. To date, I am ashamed to say I have not received a personalised rejection letter or email. I long for the day when an Editor will take the time to tell me my work is not for them. Maybe because my piece is too real; it doesn’t fit their dystopian fantasy theme; my characters are not quite right; or frankly, my grasp of the English language is atrocious and please can I make an effort and overcome my pathological fear of commas?
Thus far, I have hunted for rejection. Logging onto websites I have seen the blanket rejection thrown to us. We are like stray dogs feeding ravenously on week-old bread. If you have not been contacted by us, please consider your submission to be unsuitable for us at this current time. Thank you for your interest and support of The world’s Best Literary Mag Ever so there!
Then there’s the group email, of which I suppose, I am one of millions of hopeful writers. You are receiving this email because your submission has not been accepted for our latest edition of The World’s Best Literary Mag Ever.
I understand, truly I do. Editors are underpaid, overworked, and work to deadlines tighter than the first hole of your belt. They are often swamped with submissions and live in perpetual hope of coming across a beautifully written piece of work that deals with an interesting, unusual and captivating topic. They pray writers will be able to string at least half a sentence together and adhere to guidelines. 12pt means 12pt people!
To be honest, I am a novice at this game, and I have only sent out 10s of submissions this year, not 100s but I’m working on it.
Occasionally, I get friendly emails back when I send my work in: Hi Nadia, Thank you for your submission to The World’s Best Literary Mag Ever, for your lovely email, and for considering us a home for your work. We will be in touch after our deadline but in the meantime, please contact us immediately if this piece gets snapped up elsewhere. I love those. I feel a bit spesh when I see them loitering in my in-box.
There is the indomitable waiting. You know, the kind that stretches forever, and you are immersed in silence with all the doubting thoughts chasing around in your head. There is so much silence in fact you double-check you did actually upload your piece on Submittable.
My Publisher (I am name-dropping here to make myself feel better after all that silence) wrote an article about rejection. She said writing boils down to writing (a lot), revising, editing, rewriting, revising, re-editing and so on and so forth. Then she got to the part about rejection. Rejection is a good thing. It means your work isn’t floundering in a notebook or on your laptop doing nothing. Your work is out in the world knocking on doors. You’re actively seeking publication and inevitably, such an act will undoubtedly invite rejection. Many, many rejections. And that’s okay because behind every published piece of work are many other pieces that didn’t make the grade.
So when your work gets rejected and stamped fiercely with a mythical massive red rubber stamp, bring it back home again. Lovingly review it, revise it, re-edit it, rewrite it, and polish it up and then send it back out into the world.
Rejection is part and parcel of the writing process. It’s not the end point, it’s just another point we writers have to traverse. I hope now and then an Editor will come along who likes your work enough to send you a personalised rejection. That’s what I’m waiting for right now. Either publication, or a personalised rejection letter. Both will be equally welcomed.
Why Does Rejection Hurt So Bad? was first published in Issue 04 of writeHackr magazine and is reproduced here with kind permission.
Postscript: I am pleased to report receipt of personalised rejections since this piece was first published. I believe professional connections within the industry will ultimately lead to success. So if you’re grappling with finding success with publication, may I encourage you to attend industry events and sign up for personal critique sessions? You never know where they may lead.