Post by: Lindsey Baker (Prose Editor)
Rejection sucks. No doubt about it, being rejected in any context is not a fun time.
Writers, however, get to have a very fickle relationship with rejection. Ask anyone who has tried to get their work published and they will tell you the old adage of the famous authors who pinned thousands of rejection letters to their walls to look at as they swatted away at their typewriters, or the story of Stephen King working at an industrial washer with maggot-infested sheets during the day while cranking out bestsellers in the laundry room/office of his family trailer at night, constantly being told that his fiction wouldn’t sell. These stories are gratifying in the same ways that they are frustrating. We, as writers, love to hear them and sometimes repeat them to ourselves like mantras or prayers, especially each time the email comes in and we get another “REJECTED” mark pinned on Submittable. These are the stories that give us hope that if we just keep working and keep submitting, eventually something must happen. Each rejection must, so help us, bring us one step closer to literary royalty.
If this empowers us, then the stories of struggle and endurance are worth repetition. However, we must remember why we write in the first place. No writer (at least, no one who writes well) sat down one day and said to herself, “Well, gee, I bet I could make a lot of money writing a bestseller. Bet I’d get really famous too!” and started furiously typing. Okay, well, there are probably plenty of people who believe that, although hopefully she didn’t say that aloud around any literary folks. We all know that this isn’t a job that will bring us money effortlessly, and unless we’re very lucky, it isn’t likely to bring fame either. But if our work connects with even a handful of people—if it is inspiring and thoughtful, if it sticks around in our reader’s head—then haven’t we done our job as writers?
Not to say that writing for money or building a completely livable career out of writing is impossible or somehow less noble than being a literary wonderkid. But it requires stamina, the type of stamina that can’t be deterred by a few silly ol’ rejections. It’s up to us as writers to take our rejections in as fuel, as ladder rungs to some greater level, as another step on a long journey; pick your cliché metaphor, it’s up to us to persevere. And, in the meantime, we must remember why we write and take joy in the sharing and growth of our work.