Saturday, January 19, 2008


Today I got a rejection email for one of the articles I submitted. Getting rejected by email was a novelty, which held off the sting for a moment. Besides, as the old adage goes, if you don't have enough rejection letters to paper your walls, you just aren't trying. Not that you can paper your walls with emails, but you know what I mean. I read the rejection letter again, admiring the fact that it was from a real person, it wasn't just a form rejection. Every writer knows that rejection letters come in levels, and this one rated fairly high. Signed by someone, for one thing, who took the time to write a personal note. And the note was encouraging too, telling me that my story was "nicely written." Maybe that's not a rousing endorsement, but of course it is not going to be too rousing or she'd of accepted it. She also wished me success on finding a more suitable market to place my story with. So, all in all, one of the better rejection letters in my collection.

There's only so much you can pretty it up, though, because the truth is, rejection hurts. Writing is a creative process, and any time you put yourself out there, you secretly long to hear that the recipient is absolutely blown away by it, loves it, and intends to pay you piles of money and publish it immediately. But once you let people other than your mother read your work, that's not very realistic. So, the temptation is to quit writing, or at least quit submitting for publication. In writing, like in anything else, quitting will not get you where you want to be, though. As my teenage son told me, if you don't send out your work, it's an automatic "No." This is the same son who played Chess for years with his older brothers, his dad and me, knowing he couldn't win. He played anyway, focusing on learning from the different styles of each opponent, and now he's a formidable chess player, able to excel at defense and offense in the same game, and winning routinely. Besides, I've been writing since I could hold a pencil and I don't think quitting is even possible. As for submitting, that's the only way I'll ever get any better. I could write for myself forever but I am not a good judge of the merits of my work. I am apt to despair and think it's all junk, or fall in love with my words and refuse to see the flaws. I need unbiased opinions, what used to be called "Gentle Readers" to sharpen my skills. The discipline of submitting, of waiting for a verdict and not letting it destroy my confidence, of sending out the article to the next market on my list, will be, I'm convinced, the method by which I will become a professional writer and not just a scribbler. This is a business and if I want to make any money at it, I have to toughen up. I don't know if it's really possible not to take rejection personally, but I believe it is possible to put it in perspective and work harder and smarter to make the sale.

I know it can be done, because I've done it. I know it wasn't luck, because it has happened several times. I know I am a writer, I think in stories. I tried to do something more with it when the boys were little and the time just wasn't right. My husband assured me my time would come, reminding that to everything there is a season. I believe that season has come, and so I accept the rejections as part of the process of becoming an established author.

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