This is a section of the spreadsheet I’ve been using for the past three and a half years to keep track of my poetry submissions. I think it’s October 2010 - January 2011 (for whatever reason, when I started the spreadsheet, I chose not to note the year). It’s sections like this that make me relieved and happy to get a kind rejection from a publisher or magazine, a “Thanks so much, we really loved parts of this, please send us more” rejection. It’s sections like this that keep me humble when I’m in the middle of a “yes” streak (although, let’s be clear, that is really pretty rare). It’s also sections like this that keep me angry, which I think is a good thing.
Maybe some writers out there are able to just take rejection after rejection and smile and say “A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by forty publishers, and that book is a classic! Also, HBO passed on Mad Men!” and make themselves another cup of tea. I am not this writer. I get angry. I’m actually in the middle of another “no” streak right now, and a few weeks ago updated the spreadsheet with “WORST REJECTION EVER, NEVER SUBMIT HERE AGAIN.” Which is kind of funny, but also just mad.
It’s so easy to get demoralized by this kind of stuff. To compile all the “Dear Writer” letters and tell yourself you suck. That you shouldn’t be doing this. That you should just forget about the whole thing and move on with your life. So being angry really helps. It’s hard to give up if your internal monologue is “Why the fuck would this place reject my poems? Did they read their last issue? This one poem I sent them is BRILLIANT, I KNOW it is, one time I read it to my friend and she CRIED! What were they thinking? I’ll show them …”
Which is why my general policy is that, for every rejection, I send out two more submissions. You didn’t like that? Fine. Let me go out and get someone ELSE to like it. Let me publish eighty books and never mention you in the acknowledgments. Let me never sulk, or feel sorry for myself, or whine about how life’s not fair. Life ISN’T fair; the only way to beat it is to be persistent to the point of insanity. To keep working and working and working, to keep finding ways to improve. There’s a particular type of anger that starts in arrogance but ends in resigned dedication. After the “My work is brilliant, you’re an idiot” stage comes a “Okay, let’s look at this again” stage. A “Let’s do better” stage. And that’s the most important byproduct of the initial flash of rage. The fury just gives you the adrenalin and the desire to keep working, to take what you thought was already brilliant and turn it in Super 1000 Max Infinity Awesomeness.
Speaking of which, I have some revision to do.
Stay angry, my friends.
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- katiecoyle said: Sisters in rejection rage.
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- larrysellers said: this is great. thank you.
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