Morning Rejection

A quirk of living in the UK and submitting short stories to publications in the US is I tend to get rejected first thing in the morning. Often before I have even got up or had a coffee. The time difference means the rejection emails arrive in the middle of the night and are ready and waiting for me. I wake up, pick up my phone to check the time – because who has bedside clocks any more? – and then instinctively open my emails. You’d think that I’d learn and just put my phone down until later, but I never do.

It can be a pretty galling way to start the day, especially if it was a submission I was feeling particularly hopeful about. Thanks to applications like Duotrope and Submittable it is pretty easy to get a sense of when the response to any particular submission is likely to arrive and so I often find it is in the back of my mind, figuring out roughly when to expect a response, and the absurd hope that comes with a rejection not arriving on the expected day. I know the best way to do it is to submit and then forget about it. But does anyone actually know how to do that?

Getting rejected before getting out of bed has its upsides, I suppose. It is almost certainly the worst thing that will happen that day, so it’s good to get it out of the way. You can spend the day on an upward trajectory of recovering optimism while everyone else passes you, going in the other direction.

A while ago, before I placed any writing with anyone, I had pretty much written off the idea of ever having any success. The plan was to keep writing so that I could organise my own thoughts and figure myself out, and collect rejection slips while I did it. But now, because I’ve had a couple published, the rejections sting a little more than they used to. The hope is a little higher now. Sometimes I compare the stories that have been published to the ones that get rejected over and over and try to work out what the difference is between them. I can’t tell. I have no idea.

Rejection is just a part of this whole process, and it might be the most valuable part. The thing that keeps us humble and doesn’t let us rise too far above ourselves. A steady stream of emails telling you not good enough, not good enough, might be hard to take but it might be building us up in a different way. Like how character is built out of all the hardest things that happen to you. Nothing comes easy and no one owes me anything.

One of the things I tend to do after a rejection is count how many open submissions I still have, like I might have lost that game, but there’s another dozen still in play. I try not to let the rejections get me down, and I have tried for a long time not to write a blog post about it, because I think this is a subject that has been done to death and going on about it doesn’t really do anything especially valuable. It doesn’t help with anything. But it’s part of the writer lifestyle and getting my rejections before I have got out of bed is a pretty stark way to begin a day. A few weeks ago I got one of those first-thing-in-the-morning rejections and it really bummed me out. It ruined my day. I had only made the submission two days previously and I wasn’t expecting a response anywhere near that fast so I didn’t even get to sit with the hope for very long.

So this was how I started my day today, with a rejection from a publication that I was really hopeful about. It didn’t ruin my day quite as badly as it did the last time, but it still stung. Rejections always do. But here is the most consoling thing I ever heard about being rejected. Rejections save you. They save you from showing the world the stories that weren’t good enough, and even if the story was good enough it saves you from putting it somewhere it doesn’t belong, and where people will resent reading it. Every rejection is like a little blessing. Now I just need to find a way to remember that when I’m reading the email.

2 thoughts on “Morning Rejection

  1. Every rejection is like a little blessing. I liked that line perhaps the best from the other side of the ocean from where you’re probably sleeping right now because I’m not.

    Congratulations on your successes. Me, I’m feeling the sting right now, as has happened too many times over the last 3 years. I too have had my share my successes, but this streak has gone on so long that I feel it’ll never end. Yes, I know it goes with the territory and that also this lament has been done to death, but I enjoyed your post enough to respond. Good job and funny in a quirky sort of way too.

    Seems my reaction to rejection is to start looking for other places to send my work. That’s how I arrived here, through a route that took me through Glimmer Train. After this, I’ll continue my quest and we’ll pass like blogs in the night, likely never to cross paths again, especially in person.

    Wouldn’t that be great though? To meet with fellow writers from the other side of the planet in some out of the way coffee shop in Paris perhaps laughing at the absurdity of how we strive to put our words in front of the eyes of strangers. That would be fun, and I’d order a bagel with cream cheese too.

    Best to you in the new year.

    1. I wish I could remember where I got that ‘every rejection is a blessing’ idea from so that I could properly credit whoever wrote it, because it is such a reassuring thing to think. And immediately looking for other places to send work is another good way of dealing with it. I have little virtual post-its on my desktop with lists of publications that I think might make good homes for each story so I always have somewhere to go. Well, almost always. I have one story that’s a little weirder than all the others. I’m a little more protective of that one.

      And ‘the absurdity of putting our words in front of the eyes of strangers’, that made me laugh first thing this morning (because as you rightly say, I read your message first thing in the morning.) Getting those stories out there, all nicely formatted and well-dressed, it feels so damn important while I’m doing it.

      And happy new year to you, I might have a cream cheese bagel this weekend in your honour.

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