Rejection is the pits. Whether you’re rejected by a significant other, a friend, a family member, or even a pet, there’s no escaping how completely lousy the experience is. Your self-confidence? Gone. Your sense of self worth? Right out the window.
But what about professional rejection? What about when your choice of career is a path paved with heaping handfuls of Not-Good-Enough? Admittedly, the experience is less intimate, and with less chance of malicious intent. Still, for me, it remains an experience to be struggled through.
Those who know me well know that I’ve long entertained the idea of writing fiction at the professional level. In other words, I’d like to make a living writing and selling short stories and novels. It’s a popular profession to pursue, but one rarely pursued successfully.
And here’s the rub: as with any creative field, rejection goes hand in hand with the writing business. Most successful fiction writers will freely admit that they too were rejected countless times before being published. Even after selling a story or two, rejection was still a frequent companion in their lives.
The story, they’re saying, is that rejection comes before success. Persevere. Hang in there. Don’t stop writing. And in fairness, rejection letters are not always cold and removed. One I received a number of months ago recommended that I “keep working on [my] stories, and do send this [story] to another magazine. We can’t use it, but someone else might.” Most times, however, it is simply one or two terse lines, like the one I received the other day, saying simply, “I’m sorry, but we have decided against taking this story for publication.” Mind you, there was the one time where a magazine rejected me twice for the same story, even though I submitted it only once (their dislike, I assume, must have been considerable).
And I understand—I do. Most fiction magazines receive hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts a month and have to respond to each and every one. They do not have time to send a flowery and consoling letter to everyone. I get it.
But it still sucks. And I’m not writing this in hopes of soliciting kind words of encouragement from you and readers like you. If I am a writer of any merit at all, I will continue to write despite whatever rejection comes my way. In all truth, there is no other way.
With that said, however, I do want to pose a question. At some point I will need to divert my attention to more pressing matters, such as earning enough money to support a family. Sure, I will always continue to write, but when should I make the mental shift where writing becomes just a pastime, and not a career to be pursued? At what point do all those rejection letters become not simply part of the process, but a clear indication that, hey, maybe this gig really isn’t for me, not professionally, anyway?
There are no clear answers, I know. But they’re certainly questions worth considering.
How about you? How has and how does rejection (professional or otherwise) shape your life?
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.