I used to save my rejection letters because at some point some writer I admired said at some talk or panel or-god I’m getting old-maybe it was an interview that I read…anyway, he (or she?) said that he tacked all his rejection slips to his wall and it motivated him, kept him writing. I did this too when I first started sending out stories because I thought it’s what writers do. Real writers. I have since learned that while a wall of rejection may help motivate some people, it does not help motivate me. I record rejections in my spreadsheet and throw them out. Even the nice, handwritten rejections (sorry kind editors). There’s something toweringly sad to me about the Wall of Rejections. It does nothing but give my insecurity a quantifiable, embodied structure against which to ram itself over and over again. Rejections hurt less when they are not forever hanging around reminding you of their existence.
Which brings me to yesterday: I’ve had a good year. I have nothing to complain about. But I’ve received a few rejections lately that have hurt a little more than usual. Yesterday I got the latest. But instead of feeling slightly more dejected, instead of trying to neutralize that feeling of rejection by immediately deleting the rejection and pretending it didn’t exist, something lovely happened. I thought to myself, “Okay, this magazine you love has rejected you (again). What are you going to do about it?”
I let, even encouraged, my brain to have a little tantrum. It said, “As long as you’re indulging me, let me just say: I’m never going to get another thing published. Not ever. And I am never going to write again! Never never never! I’m just going to quit.”
And then I laughed at my fit-having brain and gave it a Werther’s and said to it, “How does that feel? Deciding never to write again?” and my brain, in a small, teary voice said, “Bad.” And I said, “And what happens if you never publish anything ever again?” and my brain answered, “Nothing.” And I said, “So what are you going to do?” and my brain answered. “I’m just going to keep writing.” And I said, “I know,” and my brain sniffled and unwrapped the Werther’s and in five minutes decided it wanted to go outside to play in the snow.
It felt so much better, to confront this latest rejection and let it be a little melodrama in my head. To let my reaction to it be extreme. Because even mid-tantrum, I’d already realized that rejection has nothing to do with whether or not I write. This is a really obvious thing, but I’d never actually let myself think about it immediately after receiving a rejection. In fact, it always felt like the exact thing I shouldn’t think about, lest my fragile writer’s ego crumble under questioning. Instead, it cleared the air somehow. The rejection inversion in my brain is gone. Today, I’m submitting again. Tonight, I will write.