Acceptance of Rejection

With the year still as shiny as a new penny, I celebrated the first rejection of 2021. Celebratory is not exactly how I felt — this was for an award I would have loved to receive and even dared hope for — but yet, it was a celebration: the work goes on. I have poems to send out into the world and poems yet to write.

As I write this at the end of January’s 1, 963 days, I feel a bit unfocused. Because of not being able to make so many other plans, my brain does not want to buckle down and set some writing goals.

As I have mentioned before, I am part of a Facebook group, #rejection100, where all of us are aiming to hit the magic 100 in a year. Judging from comments in the group, #rejection100 was an inspiration for many in 2020. Actually, all of us were the inspirations for each other: congratulating when those ubiquitous rejections piled in, commiserating with those waiting, and offering condolences and applause with each acceptance. It was amazing to be able to read the work of people who previously had been total strangers, but known now through our common bond of pushing ourselves for more rejections. Some of the pieces we read were sent out because the writer had been motivated by the rest of us: what an honour.

The numbers:

Last year, I submitted 268 pieces to 91 publications. I racked up what I would count as 74 rejections (192 individual pieces) which didn’t quite get me to the 100 mark. It is not surprising since I did not make 110 submissions, which was my goal — leaving room for ten acceptances. That was one goal I did surpass though: I received 13 acceptances, plus two commendations for contests that I did not win (they count as rejections, for sure!). The discrepancy in numbers — no, I did not have 76 pieces accepted! — is because I’m still waiting for some rejections from last year’s submissions or other poems were withdrawn from submission if they were accepted elsewhere.

Beyond the somewhat boring numbers though, what? More than just numbers, they represent hard work, some frustration, disappointment, joy, amazement, satisfaction. And I did more than just rack up a bunch of figures on a spreadsheet: I learned a couple of things as well.

Aside from the obvious “if you’re not in, you can’t win” there were some more subtle lessons to be hammered home.

  1. Don’t submit to something if you don’t actually want your work published there. This may sound completely obvious, but… Sometime mid-year I sent five poems to an online publication. Within hours they were back to me accepting all five. Despite this seeming like brilliant news, my gut did not agree. One flag was that they were publishing in August and one of my poems was distinctly Advent-ish. I called a friend. She tried to find the publication but only got onto the site when I sent her a link. Another flag: were my poems to be in some obscure corner of the internet where no one would ever find them to read and enjoy? I now consider the opportunities more carefully. Not all of them need to be top-end literary journals (I wish!) but do they suit my work at this point in time?
  2. It is helpful to learn to communicate with editors. I put a lot of thought into how to approach the editor in number 1. After offering a compromise on publication which didn’t go down well, I followed my instinct and withdrew my submission completely, while also apologising for wasting their time.
  3. I need to write more! Part of not making my submission goal was not having enough to submit. It will mean a lot of stitching myself into my seat, as I often tell myself when a certain poem or other piece demands much in the creative process. If I stay at it long enough, something will eventually happen.
  4. It is not so bad being rejected. Or, as the Canadian artist Robert Genn once said:

It is necessary to put yourself out for rejection, and accept that you will be rejected.     

2 thoughts on “Acceptance of Rejection

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s