BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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On Dealing With Rejection

I love to write, and, like many writers, I submit my work for possible publication in a wide variety of venues: print journals, digital journals, poetry and fiction anthologies, blogs, you name it. More often than not, my work is rejected, not accepted. I'd say I have something in the range of a thirty percent acceptance rate.

Even though rejection is the norm, it still hurts. When it is a story about which I feel particularly passionate, it really hurts. Such was the case recently when I submitted my first-ever complete novel -- and I got back an automated "This isn't for us, thank you anyway" from the publisher.

So, I did the mature thing. I sulked. I whined. I pouted. I complained to friends online and in real life.

And then I got back to work.

The hardest thing about being a writer is not the writing -- it is dealing with rejection, and the attendant depression and self-doubt which follow. Why didn't so-and-so like my story? What's wrong with it? What do I need to change? Was so-and-so just incorrect, and the story is fine, or is it just plain bad? Should I revise it, or submit it elsewhere? Should I just give up?

And on it goes, around and around. Over the years, I have developed my own techniques for dealing with rejection. Depending on the nature of that rejection, how passionate I am about that particular story, and whether or not there are other venues immediately available, I engage in one or more of the following.

1) Sulk. I know, I know. Immature. But I have found that wallowing in my depression, at least for a little while, actually helps. It's cathartic. You were hurt. Allow yourself to feel bad -- but not for too long. A few hours or a day at most. And then move on.

2) Read the rejection carefully. Don't be stupid and delete or throw it out right away. Hold onto it and, when you are ready, look it over. Auto rejections aren't much help, but sometimes an editor or publisher will send back a detailed "here's why we rejected your story, this what you can do to make it better" note. Consider those suggestions for improvement carefully. They may be nonsense, but they may actually be pretty good, too. Work those suggestions into your story, and see if it actually does make the tale better. If the result is a more polished, well-rounded story -- great!

3) Take a break. Sometimes, you need to set aside a project for a time and just let it sit. Let it ferment. Work on something else, preferably something completely different. Then, go back and look at the story with fresh(er) eyes; you might spot the problems which caused the story to be rejected, or you might decide that it is fine the way it is.

4) Pray, meditate, perform a divination. Engage with the Gods and spirits whom you honor. Seek their counsel, or at least their support. If you are not already doing so, build a relationship with the Powers of inspiration in your tradition: the Muses, Apollo, Bragi, Odin, Saga, Thoth, Sarasvati, Benzaiten, Nidaba, to name just a few. They can help guide your writing.  

5) Resubmit. If the initial rejection included a line something like "revise and resubmit," do that! That means the editor or publisher really is interested in the piece. Otherwise, submit it elsewhere. Find another venue and try, try, try again.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not send a nasty note back to so-and-so over the rejection. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how angry you are, no matter how certain you are that the story is perfect just the way it is, do not respond with a "you're an idiot" note or worse. Bad, bad idea. The immature bits should be limited to sulking or bingeing on chocolate, not burning professional bridges. So-and-so who rejects your work today could accept it tomorrow; and, yes, editors and publishers talk among themselves, so, if you act like a toddler throwing a tantrum with one, word will spread through the publishing community. 

I know rejection is hard. I know that it hurts. Don't let it stop you. Deal with it. If you are called to write, then write. And keep writing. Don't give up. 

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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