Learning Not To Care: Rejections

Most short story writers, I’m told, have a method of tracking submissions and sales. When you first start out, that file folder, spreadsheet, whatever, isn’t tracking anything but hunger and rejection. It’s pleasant in the fiddling with a scab manner of squeezing enjoyment out of pain.

The common advice now is to celebrate your rejections, get 100 of them a year, keep all of them but don’t take anything personally, engage in rejectomancy a drop at a time, don’t obsess. Some of that is contradictory.

In six months of writing and submitting I’ve completed 5 short stories. Not super productive, but I’m keeping in mind the following:

  • It’s better than 0 stories written, which is what the previous 39 years had been;
  • It’s not bad considering there’s a full-time job, contract work, twin toddlers and various other clumps of life’s challenges in there;
  • At this time I’m now less lazy (by five stories worth of writing) than I had been at this time last year.

From June 28th up to the end of 2019, those stories have collected 19 rejections, almost 4 per story. 4 of the rejections were personal, which seems to be a good sign. 3 stories are still out with various magazines, while 2 are waiting (I’m not sure why I’m waiting, it’s not like there’s a dearth of places to submit between pro and semi-pro markets) for particular markets to re-open for the new year.

But the rejections hurt. Not to where I’m moaning “what’s the point?” and throwing manuscripts into the garbage, but more than I expected. My brain doesn’t want to be detached during the hurry-up-and-wait phase of submitting. Part of the process of growing thick skin; callouses take work, work is bruising, pain is the process, yada yada.

Still, though; submitting is less, if not fun then enjoyable, then I was expecting. Writing is great fun, a blast, invigorating. Knowing that someone read it, amazing. The rejection, hearing back that someone didn’t care for it, well, OK. But the hurt comes from the unspoken bit; I don’t want others to read it in my magazine.

That’s more personal than most editors would send in a rejection, but that’s where my mind goes, my own bit of rejectomancy.

The solution is to keep writing. Get a sixth story out, tenth, hundredth story into the wilds of Submission Basin. The proper response to not for us will always be what about this then?

Eli Jones avatar
Eli Jones
Eli Jones is a spectulative fiction writer and data analyst living in the Cascadia Bioregion.