Yeeeeah, Sorry, But No


Rejection. It’s a fact of life and an experience one endures regularly in some professions. My pursuit of a career in writing has only just begun, and I am already grappling with this. One thing I have already learned from my limited experience is that writers, in general, are a sensitive bunch. So, I find it remarkable that any writer, ANYWHERE, can persevere through it and actually get published. Over the summer, I was devoted to pouring my time into writing. I was committed to hitting the mark and getting published. I submitted a short story, several poems, and an essay to a few contests. Over the course of the past three weeks, I have received rejection emails from three of the five contests I entered. I’m not gonna lie. I was certain I had a winner in there somewhere, so, frankly, a small part of me was taken aback by a rejection on nearly all fronts. Moreover, I was also taken aback by my reaction to the aforementioned rejection. I was really, really sad. I felt doubt in my ability as a writer. When I began this endeavor, I had of sense of certainty that writing was my destiny…my mission…what I was put on this planet to do.  Had I been over confident? Was I mistaken in believing that writing is my life’s purpose? Am I just that full of shit? I’m still reeling, so I can’t quite say.

 I’ve experienced tons of rejection, of many types, in my life.  You’d think I’d be a pro at dealing with it by now and that this kind of email would roll right off my ego, like water off a duck’s back:   “Dear Christine, Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, our team has concluded that your piece just isn’t right for our publication. Best wishes and keep writing.” For some reason, this rejection stings much more than all those boys to whom I was invisible or those hiring managers that felt I “wasn’t the right fit.” It feels like I offered up my bare and tender soul, only to have it carelessly tossed aside and trampled.

 I’m set to attend my second writer’s conference at the beginning of next month, and I can tell you the first thing I plan to ask some of those working authors is this – “Does it EVER get easier to accept rejection?” At the conference I attended last year, children’s author Robert Burleigh showed conference attendees a handwritten log listing dozens of manuscripts he’d submitted over the years. Only a tiny fraction had been published. He also showed us a photo of a file cabinet drawer filled with pieces that he’d never even submitted. There were hundreds of them. His point? You need to write a lot to get published, and you will be rejected a lot before you ever are. It’s a sobering thought for this aspiring writer…this tender hearted dreamer. My husband worries that repeated rejection will, ultimately, squelch my desire to write. He doesn’t want to see me suffer. Might repeated rejections discourage me from trying to make a living as a writer? It might. But will I ever stop writing? The answer is a resounding NO! The truth is, I can’t stop writing.

 I’ve been a storyteller as long as I can remember. Even before I could write, even at times that I didn’t write, my mind created stories – mostly as an emotional and psychological coping strategy – but rich stories, none-the-less. Now, after all these many years, it’s like breathing. I have to do it, and I know I will always do it, whether I get published or not. Quite simply, some unseen force compels me, to write. So write, I will – whether it’s published or not, whether it’s read or not, whether it’s “liked” or not. Happiness, for me, would be to make a living as a writer. Living, for me, means that I am a writer.

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