Last week I received a rejection slip that spiraled me into the fetal position, stealing my breath away. It had been such a great day with my students, and months since I had sent off that essay in question, the one about the death of my daughter – that I was caught in a gut response by the quick change of my mood. It made me nauseous. And then I remembered:
-I am a writer.
-I have grit.
-This isn’t personal.
-This might hurt, but it will also help.
-The editor’s note was handwritten, for God’s sake. Cherish it.
Why does my mind go into an automatic whirlwind of self-doubt every time a rejection slip arrives? I’m not alone. Writer friends have reported similar responses. We all know that rejection slips are part of the business of getting published, so why is it that one rejection carries more weight than a glowing acceptance? I once heard another writer say that an acceptance always cancels out the rejections. Not for me. I guess haven’t learned how to do that yet.
Sure, I have my “important” list of 7 memorized, the one I’ve laminated to my brain when I see one of those responses in my mailbox:
- This is just one person’s opinion.
- If a rejection cuts to the core, consider it carefully (especially if the story receives similar responses by several lit mags).
- Make sure I know what a publication is looking for.
- Trust my gut in knowing how to proceed.
- Discover the language of rejection slips. (There’s a secret code in an editor’s message, which can mean anything from adoration to lousy timing to disgust.)
- Print out Brevity.com’s fabulous “Form Rejection Decoder Thingy” (a ‘cootie-catcher’ game) and have fun.
- Paper the wall with the best rejections. (I’m working on papering a window frame.)
What do you do with rejections?
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Vanya, I think this is great advice. I’m going to post your piece on my FB feed!