Dear Sir or Madame, Thank You for Rejecting Me
by Melissa Nott
What's a nine-letter expression for one of the most painful, lonely and oft-times humiliating experiences a person can face?
Maybe for some of us.
But then there's REJECTION, the universally negative and disheartening experience of being turned down. As writers, we're drenched in rejection. Rejection assaults us via SASE in our mailboxes. It plagues us electronically in our email inboxes. "The creative work in which you bared your soul is not good enough for our publication," is the general gist of a literary rejection.
Does rejection sting? Yes.
Is it good to be rejected? Yes.
Rejection is the nudge that lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that something we've written is not yet ready for the public eye.
Rejection is like a true blue friend who has the cojones to tell us, "Hey, there's green stuff stuck between your teeth. Maybe you should floss before leaving the house."
A kindly editor once rejected a sci-fi story of mine this way: "I liked the world-building element of this piece, but the narrative didn't pack enough punch." He didn't have to spend his precious time writing me that note, but he did, and for that I'd like to bake him a pan of brownies. I took his comment to heart, searched my soul, and realized my main character was boring. I re-worked my concept, turned my dullard MC into a hilarious caricature, and cranked out a much better story, which was eventually accepted elsewhere. Am I glad the kindly editor rejected me? You bet I am. And if only I could remember his name, a scrumptious batch of double fudge brownies would be sailing through the U.S. Postal Service tomorrow.
Another editor once jotted this on one of my humor pieces: "We're gonna pass." These three words both horrified and mystified me. Gonna? Was the writing so bad you couldn't even be bothered with going to? This rejection incensed me enough to really dig my heels in and think critically about my story. The voice was pretty darned good, but the narrative used too much profanity. I cut the naughty words, which actually ended up strengthening the prose, and subbed to a humor site I wholeheartedly respect. And guess what? The story was accepted. Am I glad the Gonna editor ticked me off enough to push forward and keep on improving? You bet your #$% I am.
Maybe you're not like me. Maybe everything you write is perfect, and any editor who rejects you is a misguided moron. In this case, is it possible to thank an editor for declining your brilliant brainchild?
I like to think of it this way: some relationships just aren't meant to be. Many moons ago, I fell in love with a fifteen-year-old boy named Tom. Tom was a school girl's dream: smart, cute, funny. An aspiring writer, actually. I couldn't wait for him to ask me to marry him. But he dumped me instead. I nearly drowned in my tears. The rejection was almost more than my teenage heart could bear.
But then I grew up. I married a different man. When I look at my life today – loving husband, two beautiful children – I realize how happy I am that Tom rejected me. And I shudder to think what shape my life would have taken if the romantic dreams of my adolescence had come true.
Writers – even good ones – get rejected. It's part of the job description. When rejection rears its ugly head in your life, you have two choices: you can hate the sir or madame who rejected you with a passion that burns you alive, or you can thank them for giving you the impetus to grow into a better writer and a better person.
I choose to thank them.