Fear and Rejection: A Writer’s Life

Writing is about 30% putting words on a page and 65% rejection.


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Writing is about 30% putting words on a page and 65% rejection. That other 5% is reserved for the off chance that a publisher will accept you, and while hope and positivity and all that jazz is great, that’s not what we’re focusing on right now. We are going to focus on the part that sucks–allowing your heart and soul to bleed onto a page and having some knucklehead somewhere let you know that your work wasn’t good enough that time around and that you should try again. So, let’s get into it.

I personally have only submitted to four places, so I’ll only focus on the one I have received feedback from so far–the Delta Arts Literary Journal. As you could probably guess, I was rejected. And it sucked. I submitted somewhere between seven and nine poems, all my best, the ones I really loved with all my heart. And not a single one placed. Didn’t even get an honorable mention. And that’s not uncommon. So, what do you do–or not do?

It took me a moment to figure this part out. I didn’t want to write anymore. I didn’t want anyone, especially my friends, to read or hear about anything I had written. I wanted to feel terrible by myself. I was angry with my friends. I was jealous–because they all got in. This seemed to make it all worse.

So, I got online, and I started my own magazine. It didn’t take but a moment. I made the website over a single weekend, and honestly, it felt good. It felt incredible to have a magazine that I was in control of, and it felt even better when I realized that no one could tell me no. But it was shallow and wrong. It wasn’t the way to handle the situation. So, I’ll tell you the right way to do it.

One, you don’t throw a pity party. It’s not going to get you published and it makes for terrible poetry. Secondly, you buck up and find somewhere deep in yourself genuine happiness for the people that did win, whether you know them or not, and you promote the hell out of that issue of whatever journal or magazine it is. And of course, you keep writing. And keep submitting. You get online, and you look up every lit mag you can find that’s open for submissions. You look at all their rules and check out the type of work they like, and you submit–FOLLOWING ALL THEIR RULES AND TYPING OUT GREETINGS AND BEING NICE AND NOT SENDING BLANK EMAILS WITH YOUR WORK ATTACHED.

And you keep doing that. Maybe it’ll take fifteen tries with one poem before someone accepts it. But those are fifteen tries that won’t happen if you just sit around and cry about your first rejection. It’s really that simple.