This has been a year of rejection. Maybe last September I would not have been able to write so candidly about my own rejection, but that was last year, and this is today.
As of this moment, I have amassed twenty-three rejections. I am hoping for one more before the end of the month. If, perhaps, I can collect as many rejections as I have years on this earth then maybe, the act of being rejected will begin to feel poetic instead of pernicious.
In February, I could see no sense to the countless rejections of a story, which at this moment in time is still unpublished, and still rejected more than anything else I've ever written. Those were the kind of soul-crushing rejections I needed to kill some darlings, to revise and revise and revise.
And I wrote this letter one cold night in February because writing is the way I get through the tough stuff:
I am a writer. I understand I chose this life filled with disappointment and rejection and heartbreak around every corner.
But I wish you could, too.
You talk about thick skin and waiting and the normalcy of this, and I understand. But just because I get it, because I have chosen this, shouldn't mean anything tonight.
Somehow it seems because I want to be a writer who writes, who is inevitably rejected as so many writers are, that I'm not allowed to feel the disappointment. Because I am a writer.
And I want to tell you that I won't cry and I'll keep writing because both things are true. I love my craft. I love the way my fingers fizzle as a story flows through me.
But rejection letters really fucking suck.
Can we please just agree? Can you stop testing the thickness of my skin? Because it is the part of me that hopes and dreams, which is most wounded.
So yes, I understand that I will one day be able to paper my walls with all these rejections and heartbreaks, but for right now, tonight, I'm going to bask in the disappointment, savor that last sip of wine because I am the one who put my words out there. I am the vulnerable one, exposing more in fiction than I ever could in fact. I am the one with a heart that has endured more paper cuts than anything else. And tonight I want to say "this fucking sucks," and have you say "I know."
I still agree that rejection letters suck; you won't find me singing them in my list of favorite things. But I know they have a purpose. And if anything, I think this past year of rejection is only preparing me for what it will be like to begin querying literary agents with my novel. With each "no" it hurts a little less.
I no longer spend days rereading the words of those rejection letters, but instead transfer them to a folder in my email, and keep moving forward with whatever I was doing before I got that certain rejection.
Sylvia Plath said it best, the rejection slips really do show I try. Without these twenty-three rejections, how would I know I'm doing enough to have my words heard? How would I know I am doing everything I can to create the best work I have within me?
Though I have quite the list of rejections (between fellowships I won't see in the near future, stories rejected by my alma mater, and other magazines, which gave me the greatest gift of time and revision because now those stories are so much better) I can say I received one "yes," and it is a major one.
My first print publication is slated to be finished before 2016 is through; this worldwide publication will be an offbeat anthology including a collection of my work, in a real, printed book!
And while I have four rejections from one specific magazine, they continue to remind me to keep sending, and I know I am mere steps away from a "yes" from them, too. Maybe this next piece I finish tonight will yield that acceptance, not a rejection. Either way, this is the life of a writer.
Sure rejections may sting a smidgeon or two because we writers are an enigma of emotions wrapped in falsities, melted in metaphors, drenched in a swig of something and a swig of something more; we are layers of life experience and empathy and stories overheard, which breeds the best of fiction. We are creators and dreamers and storytellers, and for that we must endure pain to produce the work that will put pain in the heart of those who become our readers.
If I can be anything tonight, I like to think myself fearless in the pursuit of rejection. I like to think myself just another writer.