I Heart Indies

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Accepting Rejection

As a writer, you always have to remember that rejection is not personal, reactions to work are subjective, and just because one magazine rejects a work does not mean it is “bad” or that no one else would be interested.


Take for example, this recent rejection I received.

“After reviewing your work, we have concluded you must be a terrible human being. Your writing made us feel all oogy inside, and we could not eat for several days. Never, never send anything to us again. We strongly urge you give up writing and follow less morally-offensive pursuits: electric-chair upholstery, perhaps, or asbestos-packer in a munitions factory.”

You see how tricky rejections can be; they’re so tactfully worded, it’s hard to tell what editors really think. Some journals, of course, are more straightforward; I would consider very closely before resubmitting anywhere that has responded with death threats or packages of anthrax.

Of course, everyone gets rejections – it’s part of the game, and you have to develop a thick skin about it. Ernest Hemingway collected a suitcase full of rejections before selling his first story. This may sound like a bizarre exaggeration, but as a big-game hunter and world-traveler, Hemingway may have used extremely small luggage. Also, the size of his rejections may have been bigger than average; if he submitted to magazines for the visually impaired, for example, they may have been sending out rejections the size of roadside billboards.

The key thing is not to get discouraged. Even William Shakespeare received rejections. Many people don’t know this, but Shakespeare was very unhappy as a playwright; what he really wanted was to be a poet, but he just couldn’t break in. This typical rejection is stored in the National Museum of London: “Bill – About your latest poem. Afraid it’s not for us. I think it was something about the title. ‘18.’ I mean the name doesn’t say much, does it? And didn’t you just submit a sonnet called ’17?’ The part about darling buds of May was okay, but the part where every fair from fair declines left us stumped. We’ve also noticed all your poems are fourteen lines. Looks like you’re in a rut, pal. Maybe bust out with a fifteen-line sonnet once in a while – or thirty lines. Try something new.”

Some writers I know actually collect their rejection letters. A friend of mine thumb-tacked his rejections to a bulletin board over his desk. When the board crashed to the floor from the weight of the thumbtacks, he began tacking them to his wall. Eventually the entire house was papered with rejections, the foundation began to sink, and the CFO of the Thumbtacks International, Inc., reported record-breaking profits, all traceable to a single purchaser living somewhere in Georgia.

And then, just when my friend was about to give up hope of ever selling anything… one of the rejection slips caught fire, the heavily-papered walls burst into flames, and his entire house burnt down.

My friend wrote a story about the experience.

It was rejected.

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