You know how sometimes when you need to learn (or often, re-learn) something, it just pops up everywhere? In the last few days various Twitter links and blog posts and even random opening of books here at my desk have talked about rejection, and how writers who have a long list of rejections should actually be pleased – the more rejections you have, the closer you are to being published, etcetera etcetera.
Personally, I didn’t think I had a problem with being rejected. Well, at least, not with my writing being rejected. In most of my more recent work as a blogger, I tend to throw ideas in first and then, although a piece might get a few editorial tweaks, it’s fairly rare that it gets rejected in its entirety, so perhaps I’m a bit out of practice. Before blogging, I used to write articles for travel magazines (print and online) and getting rejected was more common in that process, but perhaps as I was just starting out, it didn’t bother me too much, since I also had enough successes to balance that out.
When I was a kid, I used to submit my fiction writing to a few kids’ magazines here in Australia and had a few published, too. The only rejection slip that ever bothered me was for a story I’d written at school aged about ten which had to be titled “The last bar on the cage gave way”. I wrote a piece about the last bar of the metaphorical cage of living at home with your parents, about a girl who was about to move out and live with a friend from university. (Obviously ignoring the advice of “write what you know”!) When the story was returned by the magazine, rejected, the editor had written this helpful response: “How terrible! I hope that never happens in real life!” To me, that was the worst rejection ever. To not even read it! But to pretend they had! I was mortified.
So, that’s my personal history on rejection, in a nutshell. It’s made me realise that perhaps I am a teeny-tiny bit reluctant to have my fiction writing rejected. Because I don’t put it out there. I have a bunch of semi-decent short stories that I could, if I wanted, ship around to some small-time magazines and websites. It would be good experience, to polish them a bit, to get some feedback, to possibly get some more recent fiction publication credits than the Puffin magazine, 1986. Is it really just that I don’t have time to do this, or am I actually scared of having my fiction rejected? It’s certainly a lot more personal to have your fiction rejected than your travel articles. I think I might have to take the plunge.
(Interestingly, I have no problem with putting my fiction into competitions. I understand and accept that there can only be two or three winners, and not being a winner doesn’t dent my confidence the way a rejection slip might. Hmm, double standards!)
What’s your experience with rejections? Do they bother you more than you care to admit (like me!)? Do share … I’m off to examine my folder of short stories and find something to do with them.