All writers have gotten rejected at one time for another. It’s not a good feeling. Believe me, I should know. After a very promising start as a writer, the Universe seems to have gotten tired of giving me good luck. The past two months have been especially hard on my writing. Not only have my short stories been rejected by one literary mag after the other, but I’m having a difficult time finding a second teaching job to help pay off my grad school loans.
Having read enough interviews with famous authors, and a book or two on writing, I know rejection is common, and I don’t let it get to me. It’s easier to accept, knowing that Amy Tan, Stephen King, and Janet Finch, three authors I read recently, have also experienced that rejection.
King, in his wonderful On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, wrote that he hammered a nail into the wall when he was younger, and kept all his rejection slips there, until he reached 100. “When you get to 100, give yourself a pat on the back and go out and celebrate. You’ve arrived.”
Of course, rejections most often come through email now, but it might not be such a bad idea to print those babies out, and use them as encouragement rather than negativity. Use those emails or slips as a reminder to keep trying harder, to keep writing more, and submitting often. Always remember that writing is subjective. Rejection does not mean you’re a bad writer. It just means that specific piece was not right for the magazine/agent/publishing house/literary mag at that particular time. Use rejection as an opportunity to read more, and expand your knowledge of both writing and reading. Put that manuscript aside and start something new. Explore territories you haven’t before. Read authors you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t. Come back to your piece in about a month and re-read what you have. It’s easier to notice problems when you haven’t glanced at a specific piece in that long. Rewrite what you have. Send it out again. Keep doing it. Keep working. Join a writer’s group if you have to. Take a class at the local Community College. Something will happen. It always does.
It’s important to remember that rejection is not personal. This is key. It does not mean you’re a bad writer or even the particular piece is bad. It just means you have to keep trying. Possibly rewrite. Possibly try another avenue. And through that long and strenuous process, remember that you’re not alone.
William Saroyan, a fellow Armenian, collected a pile of rejection slips thirty inches high- about seven thousand – before he sold his first short story. Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote every day, seven days a week for eight years before selling to a small magazine. They stuck it out, and eventually broke through.
You can too!
As you write, I recommend reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, and as cheesy as it may sound, Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, where published authors detail their own struggles with writing and rejection. You will get loads of encouragement and motivation from these books, I promise.
Until next time,
The Accidental Blogger