One of my favorite books about writing is called On Writing. Guess who wrote it? Stephen, of course. So naturally I adore it and have read it thrice.
Now, everything Mr. King says is not law. It’s not my bible, anymore than Elements of Style or my college writer’s handbook are, but it adds to the scripture of my writing beliefs, and it tells me amusing tales of my favorite author.
One of the stories I like is that he got a nail and stuck it to his wall, and then put every rejection slip he received onto the nail. Eventually he had to upgrade to a spike. I am thinking of Stephen’s spike this morning, as I scroll though Twitter and see several people discussing their number of rejections.
Here’s what I do:
I have a Word file in which I log every submission. When I get a rejection, I go back and italicize the entry. If I get an acceptance, I make it bold. Now, I have been keeping this log since I started submitting things in 2018, so it’s a little long. Thing is though, I really have no idea how many rejections I have received. And I don’t care to know.
I feel like knowing exactly how many times someone has said “nope, not you,” would be incredibly stressful. I mean, I could go back and count, but I don’t want to. I could also count my acceptances, but I don’t do that either. What I like to do, though, is save my best acceptances. I have four or five that really made me smile. My first short story acceptance will always stay with me: “I thought this would be a cliched, POV experiment,” he said, “I was wrong.”
There are some great rejections I have gotten, too. The ones along the lines of “we’re sorry, we loved it, we ran out of room, submit again,” are my favorites. Some editors really take the time to send good rejections, and those are the journals and mags I want to submit to again.
As I’ve written before, I handle rejection better than the average person, likely because of my theater background. So, when I get a rejection, even the form-letter sort, I move on from it rather quickly. Italicize, and go. Onto the next. I suppose that’s why it is hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of keeping a running tally of rejections in your head. Aren’t you stressed out? Aren’t you anxious in every possible way? I know I would be.
I went back and looked at my log for submissions of A Lovely Wreckage. I submitted to 15 places. Six said no thanks, one said yes, and the rest I withdrew. Six nope’s to get the yes, and I know I lucked out there. But some people? 200 no’s, still waiting on that yes. How do you sleep at night with that knowledge in your head?!
Rejection is a huge part of the querying process, and I feel well prepared to deal with it, which is a new and interesting turn of events. I do not focus on it, because that can weigh you down. Just assume you weren’t a match…it’s like online dating. So someone swiped left on you. Big deal. Plenty of fish in the sea, or poetry journals in the sea, as the case may be.
I guess my point is to not let the rejections become your focus, because it will throw you off your game. If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that little is accomplished if you don’t believe in yourself. If you do, eventually, they will, too.