Collecting Rejections

Stack of books

Some famous “rejects.”

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about dealing with criticism. Which is hard enough, but in some ways, dealing with rejection is worse.

I “collect” rejection stories. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected 30 times. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by JK Rowling, was rejected 12 times. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, was rejected 38 times. And on and on and on.

I pull these stories out whenever I need to remind myself that a rejection doesn’t mean the story is bad; it just means that it didn’t find its match. It’s kind of like dating that way. I’ve abandoned many books that other people loved, and loved books other people hate. Unless a book is actually poorly written, whether or not it’s “good” is more about the taste of the reader than the actual story. And even then, I like some “poorly written” stories.

Recently, I had a tough rejection. I have a goal to get a story into a particular online magazine. I read it, I follow it, and I know what type of stories they take. My story is better than some of the stories I read there. Not better than all of them, but better than some. (This is, of course, my extremely biased opinion.)

Usually, this magazine rejects within 30 days, so when a month came and went, my excitement built. And built. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t mean they’d accept my story, but of course, I didn’t listen.

When they had the story 75 days, I got a form rejection back with the usual, “Thank you but this wasn’t a good fit for us.” My heart plummeted. But on the bottom was a “PS,” the email equivalent of a handwritten note. It said: “PS We enjoyed this story, but it didn’t make our final cut.”

(insert screaming face)

Truthfully though, I really appreciated that feedback, because it told me what I believed; it was a good story. Just not quite good enough? Too similar to another story that’s being published soon? Drew the short straw? I don’t know. But since a publication I respect liked it (even if they didn’t publish it), someone else probably will too.

I recently read a story about how someone, inspired by Stephen King’s tale of collecting rejection slips on a nail on his wall, has made it a goal to get 100 rejections this year. Because, with rejections, come acceptances. I think that’s a pretty great attitude.

So, instead of being upset by this latest rejection, I’m just going to add it to my collection, and see how many I can get this year. Last year I got 15 rejections and 1 acceptance on short stories. This year, so far, I’m at 14 rejections and 1 acceptance. Considering we’re only at halfway through the year, I’ve done 100% better than last year.

Now I just need to keep up the good work.

Related posts: Being Perfect, Accepting Criticism, and Generally Getting Over Myself

Life Lessons

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a topic related to wellness.

“I have learned silence form the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind, yet strange, I am ungrateful for those teachers.”

-Khalil Gibran

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I believe that we’re all presented with the same lesson in life, over and over, until we learn it.  People and situations may annoy or upset us, but the truth is that everything can be a learning experience.

It’s difficult because we don’t get letter grades for these experiences.  No one marks up our experience with a red pen, showing us exactly what we need to improve.  Instead, we have to figure it out.

The best way to figure out how you’re doing in learning about something in particular is by how it makes you feel.  If it upsets, angers, frustrates, or makes you afraid, you may have more to learn from it.  The more intensely you feel, the more important the lesson.

People who won’t shut up irritate me.  They talk and talk, repeating themselves, and usually end up saying very little.  I recently had yet another encounter with one of these individuals.  He was a member of my writer’s critique group, and he gave good feedback, but it was buried within a speech to rival the length of War and Peace.  I tried to let him know, gently, that it was difficult for me to hear what he was trying to tell me when he repeated the same thing over and over.  I think I hurt his feelings, and soon after, he dropped out of the group.  I still feel bad about that, wondering if what I said made him want to leave.

I have two lessons to learn here.  I’m honestly not sure what the first lesson is; I’m still trying to figure it out.  Perhaps that I need to listen, even when I don’t want to?  Or perhaps how to give better feedback?  The second lesson is most definitely that the world doesn’t revolve around me, and if he chose to drop out of group, that was his choice, and I didn’t “cause” it.

If I insulted him, he could have spoken to me about it.  He could have ignored me or told me to go to hell.  I’m not responsible for the choices he made, and likely his choice to leave group didn’t have anything to do with me at all.

What lessons are you still working through?