One of my biggest obstacles to changing my writing from hobby to job was the fear of rejection. I don’t do well with failure. Even as a kid it gave me serious anxiety. I’d be so afraid of failing or making a mistake that I’d just freeze and wouldn’t do anything. Then once I was forced to actually do it and found out that even if I did make a mistake or fail, it wasn’t the end of the world and then I had no troubles.
Writing was no different. The idea of being rejected (and therefore, not good enough) stopped me cold in my tracks. It was the combination of entering contests (because in my head that’s not being rejected, it’s just not winning, and I can handle not winning) and reading Stephen King‘s On Writing that helped me get past my rejection fear.
The first story that ever brought me any kind of validation that I might be good writing was “Such a Pretty Face”. It won 10th place in the Genre category of a Writer’s Digest story contest. It got me 25 bucks, but didn’t get the story published (I did get to see my name in print in a magazine, though, and that was pretty cool). I was really proud of the acoomplishment and proud of the story. I then decided to try to get “Such a Pretty Face” published.
And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson in rejection. It’s a subjective thing.
Despite placing in the contest, “Such a Pretty Face” has been rejected six times since then. SIX! You’d think that 10th place showing would count for something. It’s a GOOD story. Someone told me so. I’ve got a certificate to show for it.
It was very frustrating to have one person say the story was worthy of a ribbon, but everyone else not think it was worthy of being read.
Of all the rejections I’ve received for “Such a Pretty Face”, only one suggested I make any changes to it. The changes he suggested made me realize that he totally missed the point of the story. And that made me realize that I was forgetting the human element of the submission process.
Not every rejection I get is because the story was bad. Sure, I’ve sent out stories I shouldn’t have and they were rejected for very good reasons. But some rejections left me scratching my head. Now I realize that maybe those form looking rejections might not have all been form rejections and maybe they meant it when they said these weren’t the stories that they were looking for.
It seems silly, but up until that point it didn’t occur to me that someone just might not like my story. I never thought that maybe it might not what they were looking for or they’d already seen too many similar stories lately or they didn’ t think the story fit with the publication as well as I did. Yes, until that point, I didn’t realize that rejection might not have anything to do with the quality of the story.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, it should be no suprise that I am this slow on the uptake.
So my attitude towards rejection has changed a bit. It’s still disappointing, but now that I know that it doesn’t automatically mean that my story is shit, the sting doesn’t linger quite as long. Getting back on that horse is quicker and easier.
And if it’s the last thing I do, I will see “Such a Pretty Face” published.
Stories By the Numbers