Monday, July 26, 2004

The Rejection Paradox

So, now that I'm in a lull, having just finished a boatload of good reading described in the last two posts, I thought I'd comment on something I've seen in the past -- when good writers quit submitting their stories because of a few rejections.

When you're a writer, tenacious has to be your middle name. (Some might call it stubborn, or hard-headed, or OCD, or what have you.) I always knew I wanted to be a writer -- before I could read or write, I would sit and scribble pages and pages of scribble. (That's either predestiny or me being a really crazy kid, I'm not sure which.) When I was in the 5th grade, one of my teachers, who was actually very supportive, asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I responded, "A writer," she said something along the lines of, "That's good, you've got talent, but get ready for a hard life."

Whoa, right?

So anyway, if there are any aspiring writers out there who are tempted to quit because they got rejections, don't give up. We all do. We all get rejected -- many, many times. Many famous writers have had hundreds of rejections -- there's the old joke of wallpapering your walls with them. Most people are not the lucky few who get their big breaks in high school or college.

And, if you get ANY sort of personal rejection -- take that as a real sign that your story is good, and you have talent. Seriously, if someone takes the time to give you encouragement or make feedback, then they see something there.

Yep, for 15 years I have been sending out my fiction -- I got published in a few small literary mags in college, and won 1st place in a short story contest. That had to serve as justification for a little more of a decade to come -- personalized rejections as opposed to form rejections: "thank you but we can't use this" being standard form -- those personal rejections became a weird sort of victory. And that is the rejection paradox. Sometimes, it may be years that that's the best you can do.

I do happen to have a happy outcome of the last 15 years. I've gotten four of my short stories accepted and published in the last year, by Internet literary magazines. Despite many years of doubt and wonder if there was any point to the struggle, I did receive some degree of justification. I'm just hoping it won't be another 10 or more years before I see more literary success. I'm hoping this is the start to an upward trajectory.

Writers who have been at this for a while know about the importance of being stubborn. So anyway, like I said at the beginning, I've seen too many new and promising writers get frustrated and give up too soon. Don't give up! Write on,



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