I went to get the mail today, and there in my mailbox was a SASE. It was sitting there, all by itself and for a moment I wanted to close the box and pretend I couldn’t see it. However, being the consummate writing professional (HA!) I am, I reached in without fear and grabbed the envelop. I knew what it contained, but felt a surge of hope anyway as I stood in the driveway and tore it open. Alas, writer friends, the hope was short-lived as I pulled out a two inch by two inch piece of paper that told me I had been rejected by yet another literary magazine. Sigh. I didn’t even rate a full sized sheet of paper. Good for the environment, bad for me.
If you’re a writer, this is a common occurrence for you. Rejection is part of the game. In fact, I didn’t really feel like a writer until I got my first rejection. (Since then, I’ve put that silly notion behind me and decided that rejection stinks.) Anyway, today I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective. I was reading through some of the stories submitted for EIR, and came across one I really wanted to like. I mean REALLY. It was a subject I think is important and underrepresented. The plot was interesting, yet simple. The writing was clean…and yet, I felt like it just wasn’t there yet. The characters weren’t fully developed and seemed distant, and for me, that’s a killer. Hopefully this story will find a home with another journal. Or the author will rework it and resubmit.
People say that editors are looking for a reason to reject you, and in a sense, that’s true. My inbox is overflowing, the faster I can get through it, the better. But I don’t start reading a story hoping I can reject it quickly. I’m rooting for every story I read to make it. To be The One. Last week I found a story like that, and I’m still thrilled. My guess is that most editors are like me. They want to find a story that grabs them and won’t let go. They’re disappointed when a story they’re rooting for falls short. I don’t think most of us read to reject. I think we read because like everyone else, we Love a good story.
Even the submissions I really don’t like, for whatever reason—subject matter, writing style, the author needs to work on the craft—even those stories get my respect because someone had the guts and the determination to sit down and commit those words to paper. I know how hard that is and I respect the process. So when I reject a story, it’s never a rejection of the author. In sending out their work, the author has already accomplished something most people never will—they’ve finished a story and had the strength to send it out there. That’s something to celebrate, not mourn.
Thinking about it this way helped me handle the rejection letter I found in my mailbox today. Most likely, my work just hasn’t found a home yet. Maybe it was the subject matter, maybe not. Whatever it was, like other writers, I’ll keep sending it out until I find that one editor who likes it. That’s all I need, just one person to like it. And that’s all you need too. Keep working. Keep sending your work out. And know that even when you get rejected, you’re already a step ahead of most people. Celebrate that.