Wake Up and Smell the Rejections

writer, poet, narrator, artist

Wake Up and Smell the Rejections

So, a while back I decided that I’d had enough of blogging for a readership of five people.

I was going to get my stories out there, where people would read them–people who weren’t my friends–even if it killed me.

So I started submitting poems and stories to magazines.

And what did I get? Rejections. Since my writing time is limited, so is the number of submissions I’m able to send in.

But out of the seventeen submissions that have gone out so far, ten have come back with variations of, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Six of them are still out there–waiting for rejections of their own, most likely.

Most rejections are cookie cutter form rejections.

“Dear Miss Arch,

Thank you for trusting us with your work. We enjoyed poem so-and-so, but I’m afraid it’s not what we’re looking for at this moment.

We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future, and wish you good luck in finding a home for this one.


Heartless editor who crushes writerly hearts on a regular basis.

The odds of receiving this sort of rejection are fairly high. Depending on how popular the market of your choice is, it will receive between one hundred and one thousand submissions per month. And how many do they publish each month? Three? Four? Ten?

And when it hits your inbox, the rejectomancy begins. We share the text with our writer friends and bask in their commiseration and consolation. Then the questions start pestering you. “They enjoyed the poem. Does that mean it at least made it through the slush pile? Did they mean it when they said they were hoping for more submissions? I bet they’re just saying that.”


Too much of these ponderings will drive you mad. Mad I tell you. Stop it. Stop torturing yourself with questions you’ll never find an answer for. Just keep on keepin’ on.

Write, edit, rest, edit, submit. Sleep, eat and do it all over again.


And every once in a while, you will get this sweet, sweet taste of victory. An acceptance letter. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive one for a speculative poem I wrote earlier this year.

I was at work when I read the email and believe you me, people ran from far and wide to come and see why I was screaming like an idiot.

“What? Your poem got accepted? Shit! You write poetry? How did I not know that! This is awesome. And you’ll make three whole dollars you say? Wow.” And then the non-writery person who understands none of this self torture grimaces and backs away slowly and without making abrupt gestures or loud noices.


Forget about that guy. Who needs him anyway? You finally have your victory.

Yes, Precious. Ssoon you will write besstsellerssss. And the whole world will be oursss, preci–

Oh no wait. Different story.

Where was I? Ah yes. Victory.

Even when it’s not quite an acceptance, sometimes a rejection will be so nice it warms your heart and feels almost as comforting. When an editor reads our piece and sends us a reply, it’s important for us to remember that they’re only human. Two hands and one head (I hope) with which to read those thousand manuscripts piled up on his desk.

So when they take the time to write a personal rejection letter, with reasons why they liked it, and reasons why they couldn’t take it, that’s a huge compliment. Your story stood out from the slush. Enough for the editor to spend the time he could use to read another story from that pile on your rejection.

I got two of those recently, and they’re absolutely glorious. It’s a confirmation that you’re doing something right. And even more precious, it gives you something to work with. Those letters contain feedback you can use to make your story even better before you send it out again.

So, my friends, wake up, smell the rejections and get writing. Because some day soon, you’ll get more than just a rejection.



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2 Responses

  1. anikekirsten says:

    You’ve captured it beautifully. “Only $3?” Yup. $3 of sweet, sweet victory! Worth much more than just its monetary value.

    And, yes, the rejectomancy. We can’t help but try to divine. It’s so attractive a temptation. But it does hold up with personal rejections. I love those. Got one last week and it set me on a roll to go through all my finished stories not yet sent and work on what the editor pointed out. Rejections can make our writing stronger, too.

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