Why rejection is good for the soul

I got another rejection notice yesterday. It was for a story I wrote during grad school, in my fiction workshop with Linda Svendsen, about a couple in the St. Louis suburbs dealing with a wayward armadillo. (I think I’ve written about that story here before, but anyway.) There was an article in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s member magazine about how climate change was making northerly locations more hospitable for animals like the armadillo, and it got me thinking about things and people that are out of place in the place they’ve chosen to live, which is a common theme in a lot of what I write, and…

Well, I’m getting off track again. This is about rejection, not this story in particular.

Anyway, I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of these things. Because you know, rejection on its own isn’t good enough. You have to keep a reminder of it! So that you remember it every time you open the file! Because it’s good for you!

I exaggerate. But you know this already, right?

Anyway, I keep track of this stuff because it would be embarrassing to think “You know, I think this story would be a good fit for [insert name of fantastic and prestigious litmag where you read that awesome story last month and it would be a dream come true to get something published there]” and then send it in only to hear back from them with “Uh, yeah, you sent this to us already and we still don’t want it.”

I’m not the only person who worries about that, am I? (Just say, “No, Jeff, of course you’re not.” Just do that for me.)

So my point (See? I have a point! And I’m getting to it!) is that since I keep a spreadsheet, I know that I’ve sent out stories twenty-six times this year and received twenty-five rejections. That’s about one story every two weeks, which is in fact about half as often as I was hoping to submit stories this year, but glass half full! That’s still pretty good.

Why do I bring this up? Well, a writer I know recently got his third rejection notice recently. Third rejection of the year. He was perhaps a bit dejected about that, but my thought was, “You need to send things out more.”

Yes, it’s true that you need to develop a thick skin about submitting your work. That’s because sometimes you will need to submit your work a lot before you get to an acceptance. Sometimes you’re lucky and it happens right away. Sometimes it takes forever and you keep tweaking or wholesale changing the story because you think maybe it’s not quite there yet. Sometimes you might wonder if anyone is ever going to publish a story and you pour yourself another glass of Chardonnay and say “no one gets it I might as well give up and go back to working in marketing because I suck and this is never going to work I suck isuckisuckisuck.” And then someone sends you an e-mail and says they loved your story and want to publish it.

And that’s when you’re glad that you were persistent.

So my Christmas wish is for persistence, and for luck. For me as well as my fellow writers.

Happy holidays!