Yeah, I’m not talking about a topic that anyone is going to expect with this post. But there’s one thing that we can all take from one particular piece of the writing process to make us stronger and better and the best writer we can be.
And it’s often the one piece of the process we all hate the most. Because it’s failure–rejection.
I hate failure and rejection just as much as the next person, and I’ve been running into it twice as much lately as I try to find a second job aside from my writing. I just recently got a rejection letter from somewhere I was really hoping to get a short story published. It’s disheartening! No one wants to get a message saying that they weren’t good enough for something. Even worse off is when it’s just a stock rejection letter. “Dear Author, thank you so much for your submission. We enjoyed reading it, but unfortunately we will not be using it in the upcoming issue of Our Publication. We thank you for your work and wish you the best of luck finding publication elsewhere.” No comment on our work, what they liked or didn’t like, nothing. We’re left at square one with nowhere to turn.
But you know what? That’s perfect. That’s useable. Take it and run.
No, it’s not exactly helpful, especially if you don’t know what you did well or didn’t do well. It’s hard to improve your work from there. But the inspiration here is for perseverance. It’s for completion. So what if they didn’t take it? Take your piece, give it another once-over, find a friend/editor to read it over for you, and send it in somewhere else. Look at your work and say “they’ll regret not taking you. I’ll find somewhere better for you.” Because that’s the most important part.
Think of all your favorite writers before you. Stephen King talks about hanging rejection slip after rejection slip up on a nail in his room, to the point where he couldn’t fit them all on one nail. J.K. Rowling was turned down. So many of our favorite authors were turned down and rejected and told they’d never be published. Shakespeare was considered a hack in his time. So was Dickens. They wrote for the public and didn’t go for high-class humor or language.
They are the genre fiction authors of their age.
Just because someone told you that the story is bad, doesn’t mean that it is. I was beta reading the first few chapters of a book my friend Patrick is writing, and mentioned that I was finding the beginning of the book a little hard to get into. He laughed, saying that another classmate of ours had given him the exact opposite advice: she’d liked the opening. Any opinion of writing, be it yours or someone else’s, is going to be subjective. So what if that one magazine or literary review didn’t like your story? Someone else will. So send it to them. Keep sending it out until it finds a home. There is so much bad writing out there–don’t let yourself hide the pearls you come up with. They’ll find a home.
Keep writing. Find a flash fiction contest. (There’s a really excellent one held every Friday–and you may even see my work there!) Find any kind of writing blog. (Hey, stick around with mine!) Find something that keeps pushing you forward, keeps making you write, and never stop.
Maybe find your own nail to stick those rejections on. See if you can get more than Stephen King. 😉
Have any stories about how you’ve risen above a rejection or dismissal? Any success born out of a loss? Share them here! I’d love to hear your tales.