I wrote a little article for Flash Fiction Chronicles about dealing with rejection. Since the article was a sort of “advice” piece, I stuck to techniques that I would actually recommend to other writers. But for my personal blog, where I let bigger chunks of my crazy out onto the internet, I thought I’d mention a few other things I do to deal with rejection that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend.
Enjoy this glimpse into one rejected writer’s mind, but don’t try this at home.
- I’m super-optimistic in life generally, but I am super-pessimistic when it comes to my writing. Whenever I send a piece out, I fully and completely expect to be rejected. I retain not even a glimmer of hope. This is even true when the submission is solicited, only it’s worse because I think, “Man. That person liked me before and now I’m going to ruin it.”
- I obsess over other writer’s rejections. I faithfully read all the blogs about literary rejection. I follow Duotrope like some people follow the stock market. When Roxane Gay blogs about some magazine or another saying “no thanks,” I scream with relief on the inside because her words are so, so beautiful and if I’m getting some of the same rejection slips as she is, there is hope for all of us in this crazy, mixed-up world.
- I overstate what rejections mean because for some reason, it helps. Of course I know that a rejection slip actually means something like: “One of our readers didn’t get into this, or was having a bad day, or something just like this appeared in our last issue, or the editor has an ex-boyfriend named Clarke and couldn’t sympathize with the character, or the opening was a little flabby, or this doesn’t fit our aesthetic, or this is a smidge too long, or too short, or too lyrical, or too narrative, or we can’t explain it but this just didn’t cut it for us, etc., etc., etc.” And that’s what I tell people they mean. But when it’s just me and my partner, the conversation goes more like this: ME: “I got a rejection from Journal X today.” HIM: “What did it say?” ME: “It said, ‘We hate you. You’re a terrible writer and human being. We wish you would die so we could stop reading your pathetic stories.'” HIM: “It was a form rejection?” ME: “Yeah.”
- Privately, I do very unsportsmanlike-like things, like make a list of every magazine that has published any piece of mine rejected by Journal X. Then I look at that list and think, “Ha. What is that editor thinking? Everyone loves all this stuff s/he hates. I hope s/he sees them in those other magazines.” And then I stop being a jerk, work harder and submit again with a customarily friendly cover letter.
This is the ugly side of how I deal with rejection, but it’s real. When you have to deal with rejection on an almost daily basis, you’re bound to end up getting by on whatever gets you by, right? Or is it just me?