Thursday, October 13, 2011

Work in Progress: A Rant on Rejection

We know that there are many factors that go into the decision of which story/poem/essay gets published and which gets returned, and that many of these factors are beyond the writer’s control: the editor’s bad mood, what else has been accepted for the journal, someone friend’s story getting the nod instead, a screener who hates the second person, and so on.  In fact, the only factors in our control are to write well and to research journals as best we can.  Even though we know these things—and preach them to our students and friends and family—it remains an inescapable fact:  rejection sucks.  There’s no way around it.

This is not a post that will make you try to feel better.  This is a post to just rant and whine and complain about the unfairness of it all and how sending work out again and again and again can be soul-sucking, making Sisyphus’s life look like a walk in the park.  Rejection is the worst part of the writing life.

How to cope?

I’ve tried blasé:  Oh, well, whatever.  Lots of other great journals.
I’ve tried revenge:  They’ll be sorry when this gets published and is picked up by Best American Short Stories.
I’ve tried anger:  Mother-fucking mother-fuckers, fuck them.
I’ve tried nice:  Okay, I was just rejected, but sure, I’ll subscribe to their journal and use this five dollar discount they so kindly offered.
I’ve tried practical: Send it out again before the day’s over.
I’ve saved rejection slips/email printouts, and I’ve ripped them into tiny pieces.
I’ve sent the same rejected story that I knew was perfect for that journal back to that journal, essentially rejecting their rejection.
I’ve laughed at editors’ dumb jokes at AWP and complimented their hideous necklaces.
I’ve tried not submitting work at all, and I’ve tried submitting to a dozen places at once.
I’ve sent only to university journals, or never to university journals, or never to student-run journals, or only to student-run journals, or never to new journals, or only to new journals.
I’ve revised and tightened and expanded and re-revised and re-re-revised.
I’ve abandoned and resurrected and re-abandoned work.
I’ve written off certain journals entirely.
I’ve prayed.

What I have NOT done (yet):
--Binder-clipped a twenty-dollar bill to my story.
--Offered blood sacrifices.

Nothing works.  There is no way to cope with constantly getting the metaphorical door slammed in your face.

(Usually, this is where I would insert a paragraph about the importance of perseverance and patience and so forth.  How writing is its own reward.  I’d throw in an inspirational quote.  And I do sincerely believe all that on many days, but not today.)

In the end, I DO NOT believe that, like cream, all good work rises to the top.  I’m convinced that a lot of good work simply gets lost or set aside or overlooked or forgotten; many good writers simply give up.  I don’t have an answer or a better system or a way to fix this problem or a suggestion about how we can all truly feel better about it. 

I just have to call it like I see it:  REJECTION SUCKS.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.