Writers are told to get used to it. We’re told it goes with the territory. We’re told not to take it personally. We’re told it’s no big deal. All this advice sounds good, but it sure doesn’t take the sting out of rejection.
Thesaurus.com lists the following synonyms : refusal, brush-off, elimination, exclusion, kick in the teeth, no dice, no way, slap in the face. Wow! So much for not taking rejection personally! The thing is, writing is VERY personal, and rejection is hard.
Yesterday, I received an email informing me that my poem was rejected. I had worked long and hard on that poem. Researching the topic, writing and rewriting until it finally felt right, I finally sent it off knowing rejection was possible, even probable. It wasn't the first time I’ve received a rejection so why did it hurt so much when that email came?
I think it's because no reason was given by the editor. I rarely submit anything for publication so my experience is limited. However, in the past, when I 'd send a submission snail mail, I'd send a reply post card with a checklist so the editor could simply choose a reason. The editors who reply via email, also usually state a reason. For example, I recently sent 3 poems to a large children's magazine. One poem was accepted, the editor wrote that other two "don't fit our upcoming themes." In that case, I knew where I went wrong.
But with this one, I have no idea why it was rejected. Did the entire poem stink? Was there a line that didn’t work? Was the topic all wrong? The more I thought about it, the more embarrassed I was for submitting the poem, and then negative self-talk too over.
Now, I know editors are busy. But when an editor is also a writer, they know the questions and self-doubt a rejection brings. If the editor had taken the time to include a brief but specific reason for the rejection (meter is off, too abstract, imperfect rhyme, etc.), I would have something to work with. I would’ve grown as a writer instead of wondering if the poem was a total failure.
A teacher would never put an “F” on a piece of student writing without a comment explaining why. Writers need to know what went wrong. Editors are, in many ways, our teachers. We listen to them and learn from them. The point of all this is not to bash editors. No way! They work hard and do an important job. We need them. I just think that it would make us better writers if we knew why when our work rejected.
It's almost 3 AM, and I've been up all night. I hope this doesn't come off sounding bitter. I'm just trying to figure out if I have anything to offer the world as a writer.