Saturday, 13 May 2023 15:49

On Rejection

Rejection happens to everyone. It can come in the form of being overlooked for a promotion or being turned down by a potential date. Rejection happens to me quite frequently. This type of rejection is not work related, relationship related, or health related. It’s the rejection that comes from literary magazines where I send a piece of myself, of my writing, to potentially be shared with a bigger audience. No one else, except for me, or a few close people I choose to share it with, know about it.

Probably the biggest rejection of my life was when my mother died. Of course, this type of rejection was involuntary, but to a young child, it doesn’t matter. My mother left me. Did she not love me anymore? What did I do to make her leave? These thoughts were perhaps subconscious when I was six, but they followed me throughout my life. They manifested after my husband rejected me for another woman.

As a child, I used writing as a way to make sense of everything that changed in my world. I wrote stories in my composition notebook on nights when my father worked late. It was a way to understand the new and unfamiliar. I wrote down the words that I couldn't say out loud, whether because I didn’t have the vocabulary or because I felt they didn’t matter. Through writing, I could make up stories, and I realized I could enter new worlds where I had control over what happened to the characters. I could say who lived or died, who was good and bad, and who could be happy or sad.

Since then, I’ve wanted to write so others who experienced similar things as me wouldn’t feel all alone.

However, there were consequences to the pursuit of a writer’s life, namely rejection after rejection.

I knew that was in the cards from the get-go. When I was in my early 20’s and in graduate school for my MFA, I couldn't bear the thought of rejection, so I never even allowed it to have a chance. This meant that I never sent my writing pieces, carefully nestled in a SASE, self-addressed- stamped-envelope back then, away to their prospective literary home to be seen by another pair of eyes. Back then, my writing style was vastly different from what it is now, and I have a feeling that I would have been rejected right out of the gate. The point is, I didn’t want to take that risk, I didn’t want to try, I never did, and I’ll never know.

Now in my late 30’s, I have submitted to over ten magazines during the course of two years, knowing the risks, and as I expected, have only been published twice*. When I talk to others in the same boat, they all tell me things like, “It takes about fifty rejections for every one acceptance letter.” “It’s a competitive market and there are so many writers out there.” “The magazines just weren’t looking for what you had at the time.” “Writing is subjective and sometimes even depends on luck. It doesn’t mean you are a bad writer.” And my favorite, “I keep a list of the rejections like they are a prize to hang on my wall. It makes me feel better.”

This last one sounded like a good idea for my perfectionistic, fear of rejection mentality. At least if I kept track of rejections, then I would be “accomplishing” something. I have a piece of yellow lined paper taped to my wall with “Tally of Rejections” on the top. So far, I have eight names of literary magazines and the dates of their rejection. On the back of this paper, I have a “Tally of Acceptances” which also has the names and dates of places who accepted me. Right now, I have three on that list. The third acceptance just came earlier this week (I am writing this on a Saturday currently) but I started writing it on the day I got my acceptance. Ironically, when I mentioned above about being published twice, I was not expecting to be published later that day. 

Getting the unexpected acceptance helps to remind me of how things can eventually unfold. Something is always in the works where our fates are concerned. I have gotten to the point where I can handle rejection of my work better, although I still don’t like it and it makes me second guess myself and my writing ability. But I think that’s a normal feeling for anyone who is passionate about something and wants to share it with the world.

I know now that I can’t give up out of fear. I must continue to pursue my dream of being a published author, even if I have to wade through a room full of rejections to finally see the one gleaming acceptance. At this point, it’s more about trying and seeing what happens because if you don’t try, you’ll never know. I hope that you too can continue to pursue whatever it is you want to accomplish regardless of how many times you have to try.

*I revise this statement in paragraph eight.

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