This was originally titled ‘Rejection, all the rejection’, then I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, and I thought, what the hell is wrong with me? Even just reading the word ‘rejection’ gets me down. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
There is a theme upon which my blog has been built, and that is one of scholarly dismissal (and cats). I probably blog about it far too often, but it makes me feel ten times better once I get it off my chest.
I promise that this will be the last time I whine about it, because this year I’m going to force my luck around and start self-publishing my novels.
The sob story
Over the last few years I’ve blogged about the woes of being dropped from a publishing company in the cruellest way possible after they went bankrupt (but not before I told all of my family and friends). You may also remember the story of how I swiftly had my hopes dashed by an editor during a face to face pitch (despite the fact she had never even read a word of my manuscript.) It’s like she got one whiff and made a run for it.
That humiliation aside, I’ve also had my novels rejected 20-30 times each by publishers, agents and editors alike.
Technically, I’ve only been querying two of my novels, but still, that’s like 60 rejections.
I have light-heartedly joked about how I have never won a short story competition or creative writing prize of ANY kind (including at school, regional, state, national or international levels), and laughed about how I failed miserably at securing any form of freelance writing work. And let’s not forget the many times my stories have been passed over by online-only magazines.
The new story
Now I have a confession to make. I’ve had my writing rejected through a few other avenues too (you would think, how can there be any left?)
Last year I applied for a volunteer position for an online writing-themed magazine, thinking, in my naivety, that it was a done deal. The focus being on the word ‘volunteer’, of course.
I spent a week constructing and perfecting my article, thinking this would be my great foot in the door, imagining my writer bio and black & white photo stashed on their clean contributor’s page along with all the other fabulous non-famous writers. Well I was wrong. The editor thought my article was trash and promptly listed all the things wrong with it. To say I was crushed is an understatement.
She was cruel, she was harsh, she was without mercy.
But… she was right. It sucked.
To make matters worse, I had applied for ten other volunteer positions before I received this stinging rejection – and it wasn’t long before the negative emails started rolling in, if I received a reply at all. At the time I didn’t realise this was a thing – getting rejected from a volunteer writing position. But yes, it can happen.
It just keeps getting better
You’d think that would be it, right? That I’d run out of avenues to get rejected from? Ah.. no, the universe was not quite done it seems. There was one more box I had yet to check.
I’ve long given up submitting my short stories to online magazines or competitions – there’s only so much one girl can take. However, last year I made one small exception. In October last year, a small, student newspaper from a university in the US reached out to me and requested that I submit a particular story to their newish literary magazine.
I thought it was a wonderful idea (and the risk of rejection fairly low, no?) and I’m not going to lie, it felt awesome to have someone request one of my stories for publication. After I edited and submitted the story, they told me they would get back to me for an author bio. I was so confident about the whole thing, I even told my family about it (why do I keep doing that!?)
But they never requested an author bio.
Instead, I got this email:
‘apologies, but we’ve received so many submissions that we no longer require your short story, but thank you so much for submitting’
A.k.a they’d received a litany of better submissions, and they no longer wanted my shitty one, or something like that.
I cried, but only a little.
The feels, all the feels
I don’t want to tell you this as some pitiful cry for sympathy and ‘all the feels’ (but hey, feel free to send the vibes this way or anyway you like, prayers are nice too), but because I want to tell all the other quintessential rejected writers out there that you have never been less alone.
And… it was pretty fun sharing my rejection stories.
I want to thank all the wonderful writers, dreamers, WordPress book bloggers and inspirational thinkers out there who have provided me with endless encouragement despite facing the same level of rejection as me. Some of you have similar tales of tragedy. We need to stick together, encourage each other and be nice to each other
It is only because of you that I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. This is no joke, the first thing I do is check WordPress every morning. For example, the other day I woke up to this very appropriate comment from Jade Edge on The nine stages of trying to write poetry:
I don’t know what I would do without the GIFs.
Never give up, never surrender
It was really hard writing this and admitting that I am a complete failure when it comes to getting my writing published in any way shape of form – short of doing it myself (hey blog!) or paying someone to publish it (hey poem book from Grade 9!)
I think it only proper to end this with a little bit of Chuck Wendig:
‘staple your rejections to your chest and wade into battle with them as your armour.’
Hell yes I can do that! And I will wear them proudly.
If you want to succeed in this heart-breaking writing life, you’re gonna have to be stronger than you’ve ever been, and if you can’t manage that, find someone who can be your rock until you find the strength inside your wild, untameable heart.
One thing I’ve learned, don’t EVER give up when someone tells you that you’re writing isn’t good enough. Because most likely it is good enough – or in the very least, it’s very, very close.
Then tell those naysayers to shove it and go self-publish the hell outta your work. Because if you stop now, how on Earth will you ever get better?
There’s only one difference between the good writers and the bad.
The good writers were the ones who never surrendered.