Every time I get a rejection letter from a lit journal or agent, it makes me feel like I just got punched in the stomach. It’s virtually the same sensation: pain, nausea, the desire to curl up in the fetal position for an indefinite period of time. You’d think that after ten years of submitting my work, I’d have developed a thicker skin by now. It’s not like I wasn’t adequately prepared. When I was younger, friends and professors with infinitely more experience cautioned me profusely about the fact that, as a writer, my rejection letters would far outnumber my publications. It was sound advice; at first, all I received were rejection letters. In fact, the first time I got published, it was such a shock that I was nearly hysterical with excitement. Of course, I received my next rejection letter soon thereafter, which sobered me up pretty quickly.
When all is said and done, I suppose these dreaded slips of paper are a necessary evil in a competitive industry. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to receive one–I don’t think anyone looks forward to being rejected (unless you’re remarkably well-adjusted, in which case I applaud you). However, I think what’s most important is how you move forward post-rejection. Personally, I usually take a few hours to feel like crap. Then, I move on. This isn’t always easy and sometimes, I’d rather stay curled up in the fetal position on the couch. After a blow to your confidence, it can be difficult to feel inspired, but I think there are ways to get around that. Here are some of mine.
Write Something! Sometimes, I turn getting rejected into a challenge. My work wasn’t good enough for you, Magazine X? Fine! Chew on this! I don’t necessarily do this on purpose, but sometimes getting rejected just compels me to write something new. As I said earlier, it can be difficult to find inspiration post-rejection. One of my favorite ways to get around this is to use writing prompts. Sometimes, it’s easier to write when someone else generates my topic. You can find a plethora of sites online dedicated to writing prompts, such as http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ and http://www.writersdigest.com/WritingPrompts . For poets, it can also be helpful to write form poems when you’re feeling blocked. This is something I’ve found incredibly effective, perhaps even more so than writing prompts. As with writing prompts, the internet can provide numerous sites, such as http://www.poetry-online.org/poetry-terms.htm, that are devoted to poetic forms. Even when I use prompts, my post- rejection pieces aren’t always anything worth reading, but I don’t think that matters. That’s what revision is for!
Submit Somewhere Else Getting rejected can be the kick in the pants that I need to submit more writing to other publications. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I get lazy about sending submissions. I’d rather be writing poems than cover letters. Still, my work won’t publish itself and writing those cover letters is something that I absolutely need to do. Rejection letters usually remind me that there are many other places that I want to send my work to, and that usually results in more submissions. Lemons to lemonade? Check!
Submit Your Rejected Work to Resurgo Resurgo Magazine (http://www.resurgomagazine.com) only features work that has previously been rejected. Wait, it gets better. If they publish your rejected work, it appears alongside the corresponding rejection letter. How vindicating is that? If you’re a writer who has ever been rejected, check them out. I haven’t gotten around to submitting yet (as I said, I can get pretty lazy about that), but lord knows I have enough rejection letters to pick from when the time comes.
I’m sure every writer has their own ways of slogging through rejection letters. These are some of mine. I think that having my work rejected will probably always make me feel like I’ve gotten gut punched, but I’ve learned to live with that. Of course, getting published every now and then doesn’t hurt either. At the end of the day, I believe in perseverance. If I didn’t, I probably would’ve given up a long time ago. Ultimately, what matters most to me is that I keep on writing.