Accepting Rejection

It’s January 3rd. With the goals and resolutions of a new year in our minds, many writers are looking around for magazines to submit to and agents to query. Some of us will be doing that for the first time. (My goal, if you’re interested, is to submit to four magazines a month.) With everyone aiming for the stars, it seems a good time to talk about the thing that can bring you hurtling back down to earth: Rejection.

You will be rejected. It will be a disappointment. But if you look at it the right way, it need not sting for long. Accepting rejection and learning not to take it personally or as an attack on your work is essential. When you get that form-letter in your inbox telling you that “this piece is very good, probably, but not a fit for us at present, sorry we cannot send personal feedback” and you feel angry, defensive, or devastated, then tell yourself some of these points. And then pick yourself up, and try again.

Every Writer is Rejected at Some Point.

It’s part of the experience of being a writer. Every writer you’ve ever looked up to has been rejected at some point, sometimes for years. They kept at it, and that’s how they got to where they are now. Accept this before you start, because even if your first submission is accepted, your next 100 might not be.

Each Rejection is a Badge of Honour.

If rejection is part of the writing experience, then every rejection you get is another thing to put on your little internal CV, your list of personal steps towards greatness. (Not your actual CV. That’s for your acceptances.) Every check you put in the “rejection” column is a part of paying your dues. It’s part of the process.

Each Rejection is a Learning Experience

It is often months between submitting a piece and the response. You may have forgotten whether or not you checked some important things before submitting, so now you have that rejection, it’s worth looking again to see what may have factored into that rejection.

  • Did you submit your MS in a form the magazine prefers? Check. I failed to do that once, and I got a rejection within a week. Won’t make that mistake again.
  • Was your submission appropriate for the magazine? What you’re offering might not be what they’re looking for right now. If you haven’t before and if you can, read some of their back-issues to see what kind of thing they normally publish.
  • Did your submission meet the requirements? Was the word-count, theme, or genre what they were looking for? You would likely have checked this before submitting, but perhaps they said “longer pieces are sometimes considered” and you took a chance

You can do everything “right” and still get rejected. That’s life. But if you can take something positive and constructive away from the experience, that’s a bonus.

Magazines Can Only Publish So Many Pieces in Every Issue

You got rejected, and you’re bummed out. But let’s be realistic here: there are limitations to the number of pieces that can be included in each publication, even online. Perhaps they could only publish eight stories and ten poems this issue. It can be a space issue, and it can be an issue of money; if the publication pays, they may only have a budget for a certain number of pieces per issue.

Consider that it’s not necessarily that your work is bad, but that ten other people’s work may have been better. A better fit for the theme, a better fit for the magazine, better written, or more to the preference of the editors than your own submission.

And when all else fails….

They Just Don’t Understand My Genius

Sometimes what you write isn’t what the publisher is looking for, in an intangible, ineffable sort of way. Not everyone is going to be into your stuff. Not everyone is going to like your voice. That’s fine! That’s their taste.

“They just don’t understand my genius” is what I tell myself when a piece I love doesn’t find a home. I feel like it’s great. I think my taste is on point. So the failing must be on their part! It’s a brilliant defence mechanism for your ego, not because it’s true but because it is so over the top, and so stereotypical poet-ranting-in-a-café, that it makes you laugh at yourself.

Yes, you got rejected, too bad, so sad. Try again.

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