If “there” is the place where rejections are occasionally replaced by acceptances, then I’m not there yet.
I’m not pursuing rejection very much right now. I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t work for me, let alone what might work for other people. I’m studying, and that takes time away from focusing on the pursuit of rejection as well.
Also, rejection kinda sucks.
I know that it is a process through which writers must pass. I acknowledge that there is nothing special about my getting rejected. And really, I haven’t gotten all that many. I haven’t even hit my first hundred yet, so there’s nothing to complain about, right?
Partly, being rejected hurts in an emotional way. That little kick in the gut that what you thought was something wonderful just isn’t good enough to be bought and published by the market you thought would want it. And they just published that one piece that was not nearly as good as yours, so why the heck didn’t they want yours, the clearly superior work? Ahem.
Another part is that the form letters don’t let me know if I’m improving. My husband thinks I’m improving, but he also likes the stories that get rejected, and so I end up with some ambivalence about his opinion. And he’s totally biased in my favor, of course. I almost wish that they would give out tiered form letters – one for ‘this is a piece of crap written by an illiterate monkey, never submit again’ and then ‘you clearly don’t know what a story is yet, try again when you’ve learned’ and ‘wrong market, dingleberry’ and finally ‘loved it, but we already published a story about time traveling spiders this cycle and can’t publish another so soon.’ Then I could work my way up through the tiers – or not – and get some idea of how my work is being received.
I did actually get a few notes from one magazine that I submitted stories to, but I haven’t yet been able to apply those notes. I’m not sure what to make of them. I sincerely appreciate them, because they are not form letters, and that’s exciting, but for all I know, this magazine doesn’t send anyone form letters, which makes me feel less special. This is the point where my husband tells me to stop overthinking things and just be glad for the feedback.
So, in the course of about two years, I’ve only submitted 20 times, and the number of stories is fewer than that. Sometimes I think I should submit more, write more, and then I let life get in the way and I don’t. Or I rail about the fact that some of the things I’ve already written are “published” on this blog and so I can’t submit them to any paying market (gnashes teeth). But none of them are any better than anything I have submitted, because they don’t get any feedback either. That’s part of why I stopped participating in the flash fiction challenges for a while. They were good prompts, but I wasn’t getting any return on investment from posting them. And maybe I should have participated more, commenting on the stories of others, but I felt awkward writing anything critical, and when I did have something nice, it always sounded critical in my head anyway. One person asked for feedback, and I seriously considered writing something, because the author began by putting a parenthetical after the title stating, essentially, that the title sucked and so did the story. I wanted to comment that it’s a bad idea to shoot oneself in the foot. Better to let the readers decide than to tell them that they won’t like it before they get a chance to taste it. But the words in my head were too condescending, too harsh, and I didn’t write them.
Again, even with trying to tell myself to fear being quiet more than being stupid, I’ve managed to silence myself. To reject my opinion without allowing anyone else to try it out. My inner judge replaced the word stupid with mean, and I let myself fear being mean over being quiet. What’s next? I’ll fear being silly, being crude, being judgmental, hypocritical, blasphemous or privileged?
How can I expect to sell a story when I can’t stop rejecting myself?