All Ladders Lead Up

I have really gotten some of the loveliest rejections. Since I began submitting my work for publication, I’ve only gotten one rejection that felt unnecessarily rude. And, really, that was early on and if I went back and read it today, I’d probably realize that it wasn’t as mean as I thought. Early on, I was, perhaps, a little sensitive. Over 50 rejections later, I am a little tougher. I’m not a crocodile but I’m not a new born kitten, either. I guess I’m more like a sea horse? (In that I’ve learned to use my fancy tail to hook onto debris so I don’t get swept away by the current. Also, because I like to eat a lot.)

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Pictured: Me. Vacationing on the coast

I’ve gotten loads of form rejections. The kind that tells you no in as few words as possible. They generally wish you well. They salute you in an absentminded way. You know what it is without even reading the words – the format tells you no and prepares your brain for the let down. I don’t mind the form rejection. It is clear and it closes the door with a strong snick of the lock. I walk away from the form rejection with a shrug and a “what can you do?” attitude.

The form rejection is a Jacques Tati pratfall – it will make you a little uncomfortable, it might hurt your ass a little but you can laugh it off. You want others to laugh it off with you. I mean, what were the odds of getting into The New Yorker anyway?

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Not good, apparently

But, just recently, there has been a very specific trend of rejections floating my way: The “I love your writing but this doesn’t work for our next issue” rejection. The “you made it to the final round of deliberations but we’ve decided to go another way” rejection. The “you were a finalist but we had so many worthy submissions to choose from” rejection.

The “close but no cigar, sucka” rejection.

These are the ones that hurt the most because they hint at an opportunity lost without my knowledge or participation. The format of the note is chatty which the brain interprets as an acceptance. But, the words: the almost lover, the guy that liked you but liked your sister better. Those words might let you down gradually but they still let you down. They say, “Hey, you are good. But, just…you know…not good enough.”

Those are the ones that break the heart a little. I went back in, I’ll think. I went back in and changed that one sentence and that is probably why. I got a little heavy handed with the sea horse metaphor. But, I don’t love the sea horse! I can lose the sea horse! I’ll kill that God damn sea horse with my bare hands! It doesn’t work for your current issue? What about the next one? Or, the one after that? I bet I’d be great for the 10th issue from now!

Almost lover, why do you make me act like such a desperate tramp?

But, no, the near-miss is still a hit. The fall is less prat and more old lady with a broken hip. And, really, the end result is the same. It had nothing to do with that one sentence or that stupid over-used sea horse metaphor. It maybe had nothing to do with my writing at all.

So I nurse my aches and take my pratfalls. I smile at the fourth wall and I wait for the windfall that surely comes from persistence in the face of failure. It might not be a step up, but it is, at the very least, stepping across to a different ladder. And, if you are looking the right way, all ladders lead up, right?

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Pictured: Me.  Almost on my ass. Vacationing on the coast.
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Taking the Wins You Can Get

When I first started sending my stories out for submission, I joined Duotrope. Absolutely, if you are an aspiring writer submitting your work, I recommend this site. I wouldn’t be able to track my submissions as well on my own.  It is a searchable database where writers can list stories, search for places to submit and track sales.  In addition, it offers interviews with editors that I find really useful when deciding what to send where. It is a subscription based site – $5 a month but I find it so useful, I don’t mind the cost. (Similar free sites exist, I just haven’t used them. So I can’t recommend any of them.)

And, it gives me sweet little messages to keep me going!

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Thanks, buddy!

The first time I got rejected, I cried.

A lot.

Like a big baby.

For multiple days.

It was devastating. I didn’t have a lot of perspective, at the time, to be honest. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen – that my first time out of the gate, I’d take home the Triple Crown? It was a really nice rejection, too. The editor took the time to tell me what wasn’t working and to offer me the opportunity to resubmit when I made some changes.

But that first rejection made me shaky. Writing is something I’ve always been good at doing. It was the secret wish in my heart. It was the gravy on my mashed potatoes. But, what if I only thought I was good at it? What if everyone else on the planet thought I was just another shitty wanna-be purple prose Franken-monster? When your whole identity is wrapped up into a need to create, and no one wants your creation, what does that mean?

Of course, I was being a drama queen. That story hadn’t matured yet and it was actually really good it wasn’t published as it was. I made some changes. I let it simmer for a while. Then, I resubmitted it and got rejected again. Ha! Life is a trick ho, some days. The second rejection actually hurt a little less because I was expecting it. And, I could look at my submission tracker and see that my story had 4 more chances at 4 different magazines.

I worked on my story. I resubmitted it. I told no one what I was doing save my writing soul sister, Molly and my husband.  If I didn’t tell anyone and I failed, no one would know!  (Which, incidentally, is how I worm my way out of most diets.) And, then, I wouldn’t have to look like a loser. Well…you know what I mean. In any case, it was eventually accepted and published. And that little win gave me the courage to keep trying.

Some days you have to be brave even when the wind is rattling your door. You take the wins you can get and you let them carry you over to the next. I watch my submission tracker like a nut. I get excited every time I get an email from an editor – even the ones saying “No thanks”.  As soon as I get rejected, I immediately start looking for a new place to submit. The rejections still hurt but not nearly as bad as that first. Because, I know a win is on its way.

Not because I’m awesome.

Not because I deserve it or anything like that.

Because I keep trying.

Lunch Dork
Yeah, I’m wearing a bib at work. So what.