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How to Love the Suck of Rejection

Rejection sucks. And if you're an artist, you're going to face a lot of rejection.

It's just part of life. It's part of the artistic journey. Finding an audience, finding distribution, getting an agent or publisher or funding means having to get vulnerable, put yourself out there, and face the genuine risk of having your hard work rejected.

Actually, it's not even a "risk". Thinking of it as a risk implies that it might not happen. There is not a single artist that has never faced rejection. It's just not how life works--for artists or any of us. If you're reading this and you're not an artist, just think of applying for jobs, interviewing, and then being informed that the company went with a different applicant. Being an artist is a little like constantly applying for jobs. It's the part of being a creative that I like the least, if I'm being honest.

And yet, accepting that rejection is part of the journey means we can develop some real resilience. It also doesn't have to suck forever.

I have been writing short stories for a while and submitting them to science fiction magazines. It's been a dream of mine for decades to have stories of mine included in the pages of these sci-fi magazines that have inspired me. Recently, I have gotten some great rejections.

Wait. What?

Great rejections?

Have I lost my mind?

Well, things shift when you move from only getting form letter rejections to get rejection that states that, "Our Associate Editors enjoyed this story, and passed it up to the Assistant Editor. Less than 15% of submissions reach this stage." He went on to give me some brief but very thoughtful and specific feedback on how I could improve the story. He wrote, "This story was well-written, but we wanted more focus on inner conflict, goals, and emotion over the physical action, especially in the opening pages."

So let's see here... I got tangible data and specific feedback (which I took and ran with).

My favorite rejection of recent comes from the top editor of a magazine I have been a fan of for decades and have been dreaming of getting into. I've been rejected there before, but those were form letter rejections. It means the world to me that the editor took the time to express to me that, "I rather like your style of writing and suggest that you try us again."

Yes, sir! I shall be back.

My point is that moving from standard rejection letters that express the ever so vague, "your story didn't suit our needs" to specific compliments and specific feedback means these editors are seeing some potential in my work. That, to me, is a key performance indicator (KPI for my business nerds out there) that I am improving my writing and getting closer to having a story published in one of these publications I admire.

So yes, rejection still stings. And last week I had four of them in one week. I'm not going to pretend that getting rejections doesn't still have that moment of deflation when you're hoping that this one's going to be the email that says, "we love your story and would like to publish it." And yet, knowing that every writer--every creative everywhere--faces rejection helps. And seeing a measurable change in the tone of the rejections is something to celebrate.

So, if you are a fellow creative facing rejection, hang in there! Keep working! You are not alone. Let me say that clearly...

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Keep working hard and celebrate the little victories, listen eagerly to the feedback you get, and get back to the work because you are growing and improving.

As for me, I have more stories to revise (again) and more submissions to make.

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