Rejection. Such a difficult thing. As I sit and ponder the end of a long wait, having had a story short listed only to find out that I missed out, I can’t hep but consider this beast that stalks me through my writing. The most recent response, unlike many others, came with a small personalised note at the bottom “tough decision.” While very thankful for that tiny bit of human input where normally one so often finds copy pasted forms, still the tiny arrogant, aggrieved part of me wants to email back and assure the person in question it was tougher on me than it was on them.
Strangely you would think it’s something that one would get used to as the years behind us gather in weight. As a youth (which I am sadly assured I am not any longer) I was often rejected by my peers for being too handsome and more often rejected by young ladies for being wrong about that. Perhaps I was simply too sarcastic. Yet still there’s a bite taken of my soul in ever tiny note that says “we don’t want you.”
I know of course that in writing terms this means something as simple as “not a right fit” to the unfortunate chance of having submitted a story very similar to one recently accepted or published. I suppose then there is an arrogance in creating something. It’s like new parents with a baby that they mistakenly assure you is beautiful. No it’s not. It looks like a fucking prune. To any of my friends reading with babies, I assure you that yours is indeed beautiful, I promise. I’m talking about other people’s. But in making something we automatically stand ready for someone to praise it for us. It’s all well and good my girlfriend doing that, but I ensure her bias every evening by making her dinner. Perhaps I should stop making her dinner to improve her impartiality? Something to consider.
The funny thing is that this more recent rejection comes from a piece that rather strangely I didn’t consider to by my best work. I was glad to be short listed at all. I should be happy that what I now consider ‘not my best work’ is still good enough to be short listed in a very competitive market that pays professional rates and maintains a high standard. Yet I’m just not quite ready. Because you told me I wasn’t good enough. And I made it. I suppose a confidence in your work is probably a good thing to some extent. It doesn’t always seem so when someone else tells you it doesn’t quite make the grade. Even if it was a tough decision. I am of course supremely grateful for the added effort of those words at the end of my rejection. The carbon copy form responses are one of the things I hate most about short story market submissions. I’m well aware that a rejection isn’t quite a comment on the quality of your work, it’s a comment on its fit for the market you submitted to. I suppose that’s the funny thing about creation and rejection. No matter who you’re asking, if you’ve created something you’re proud of you want them to tell you it is wonderful. Even if it looks like a prune.
Thankfully there’s a conversation with a friend that reminds me about the good times. Before my first piece was ever published.
“How good is it when you get something accepted?” I asked her, in the naïve voice of a someone trying to work out if you can call yourself a writer before you’ve written something that people who don’t know you have read.
Her simple reply
“It makes up for all the rejections that came before.”
Great. So all you have to do to end a writing career with success is gain that one acceptance of your work. Then never submit anything ever again. I’m not sure that’s going to work for me. It’s nice to remind yourself though that all those rejections are absolved by the one acceptance that follows after. You just have to keep looking for them.