Surviving Your First Rejection Letter
I spent weeks writing this short story. Editing and revising it, until it was crisp and polished. My instructor loved it. My peers loved it…hell, even my family loved it.
I dig up the courage and I submit it to a magazine that publishes similar stories. Then, I wait with bated breath for three days. It took them only three days to come back with “we regret to inform you, that your story isn’t quite what we are looking for.”
All that courage and self-confidence I built up went straight to hell. Now I’m totally depressed. Not the throw the toaster into the bathtub while I’m bathing depressed, but I am most definitely sleep under the bed covers eating chocolate and not take a shower for a week depressed.
When I finally get past the “I’m a terrible writer” funk, I try to rebuild my fragile ego back up by reminding myself of all of the great writers that went years without being published.
They probably papered their walls with rejection letters, before they finally did get published.
Reminding myself of that didn’t help.
I was still depressed. I mean, what if I really am a lousy writer and everyone has been filling my mind with false hope that I’m good enough to be published?
What if I’ve been lying to myself about my writing skills and I need to stop pursuing my dreams of being a writer and stick to my day job?
That got me thinking. How does one survive a rejection letter? This was my first and, obviously, I’m not handling it well and if I become this depressed after one? God knows how I will be after another one.
I realize surviving a rejection letter isn’t about reminding ourselves how long it took other writers to make it. Surviving a rejection letter is reminding ourselves of everything we’ve done to get to the point to be rejected in the first place.
I mean, I have a BA in English with a minor in History. I’m one class shy of a Master’s in Creative Writing. I’m interning now with Coffee House Writers to tone my writing skills. I’ve interned with Digital Fox Media, and attended writing conferences, and read god knows how many books about writing.
I’ve had poems published, as well as short stories. I AM published. What I am working to achieve now is to be a PAID writer. That is proving to be a little bit harder.
Publishers have a vision or direction that they want their magazine to go and they look for those stories that fit that vision. So, they have to be more selective.
Yet, being an unpaid writer doesn’t distract from the fact that I am a published writer. Not getting published in a paid magazine doesn’t take that away from me.
Receiving a rejection letter doesn’t mean I’m a lousy writer. It means that paying magazines have to be more discriminating, as they only have so much money. They also only have so much room in their magazines for what they do publish.
Not getting published in a paying magazine just means I haven’t found the right one yet for me.
There are thousands of magazines, books, and journals that I can get published in, but not all are right for me nor do they promote the kind of writer I want to be.
I thought at first I was a horror writer. My instructor though has labeled my stories as speculative fiction.
The definition of speculative fiction is “a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements.”
So, that gives me a direction for future submissions. Instead of dark horror or horror, find magazines that accept speculative fiction manuscripts.
How do you work past the feelings of inferiority that a rejection letter brings about? Stop thinking about the authors that have accumulated rejections the way most would accumulate speeding tickets. That is them.
Instead, we need to remind ourselves of our accomplishments. Schools we’ve attended, the degrees we’ve earned. The articles and stories that have been published. The conferences we’ve attended and the countless hours we’ve spent honing our writing skills.
Remind ourselves of all of the steps we’ve taken to get to where we are now. Everything we’ve done to be a writer, and we ARE writers. Revel in that fact. Celebrate in that fact. We are writers. I am a writer.
Rejection letters can’t take that away from us.