Rejections: Learning Not To Care

Waste Basket

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?