“Thank you for submitting your work…..”
“We had a remarkable batch of submissions this year to our contest…..”
“Unfortunately your submission is not what we’re looking for right now….”
“We really enjoyed reading your work but….”
Rejection. It’s something that comes with the territory of being a writer. If you’re going to submit your work to literary magazines, agents, or publishers, you’re going to get rejected. It’s as simple as that. No one out there is getting every single piece that they send out accepted on the first try. It’s pretty common knowledge that even Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers before it was accepted for publication, and we all know how that turned out.
I remember the first time I received a rejection for my writing very well. I was a sophomore in college, and thought that maybe I wanted to be a poet. Okay, truthfully, I definitely thought I wanted to be a poet. I spent most of my junior high and high school years writing dark poetry for hours every night in my black-papered notebook with my gel pens. So I definitely believed that, by this point, as a sophomore in college, I had to be pretty good at it. I had the advantage, clearly, over everyone else.
I submitted a few poems that I considered to be my absolute best to the literary magazine at my college, The Lumen. I was completely and utterly convinced that they would be accepted, because I was convinced that I was the best poet at the school. When, months later, I went to my mailbox and found a letter that started with “We regret to inform you…..” I was quite shocked. And angry. How was my poetry not worthy of a stupid little literary magazine that only featured work from students at my school? How could they all be better than me? I have to admit, it probably ruined my day, if not the rest of the week.
I recounted this to my good friend Tyler a few days later. And I remember what he told me exactly — “Congratulations.” This definitely caught me off guard. But he went on. He told me that the first rejection is an important one. That I should save the letter and frame it on my wall. That this should motivate me to keep going and keep writing for the rest of my life.
At the time, I definitely thought that he was crazy. I had heard, of course, of famous authors wall-papering their offices with rejection notices, but I most definitely thought that they were all nutcases. Why on earth would you want to celebrate rejection?
It took me quite a few years, but I get it now. I’ve been submitting short stories for about six months, I’d say, and I have yet to receive a “yes” for any of them. But, genuinely, this has not brought me down or upset me in any way. With every single rejection I receive, I congratulate myself, because getting a rejection means I’m working, I’m putting myself out there, I’m doing what I have to do in order to reach my dreams.
Rejection means I’m moving forward. It means that I’m putting myself into more and more situations where I have the opportunity to be published. And, every time I get a rejection, it means that I have the opportunity to send that piece on to someone new.
Here’s the thing: all that a “no” means is that that place is not your place. It doesn’t mean that your short story is bad, or that you aren’t a talented singer or actor, or that you’re not good enough to get that job you always wanted, or that you’ll never find someone else to date. It just means that you need to keep looking. So keep looking, and don’t give up. What you always wanted is waiting for you out there somewhere, and it might look differently than you’ve imagined, but I believe that it exists, and I hope that you can, too.