January 23, 2013 by K. L. Wightman
My manuscript was recently rejected by a literary magazine. I say my manuscript because I understand, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, that it was my writing, not me, that was rejected.
I was expecting rejection on this manuscript. This short story collides traditional story structure with fresh, gritty characters, so it’s already a tough sell. I have revised this story numerous times and had professional writers, who saw its early stages, give it the thumbs up. It will take some time to shop around before my manuscript finds its perfect home.
Usually I bounce fast from rejections. When that generic email pops into my inbox or a stamped rejection postcard arrives in my mailbox, I give a passive shrug and plan my next move.
I’ve been rejected by many contests, literary journals, and production houses. I spent three months straight applying to dozens of residencies and I was rejected over and over again.
But it was the rejection letters I received from M.F.A. programs that hurt me. I wanted to get into graduate school very badly, so it was a new blow to my ego each time I received a rejection letter from all but one school. My friend and I even went out one night to celebrate our failure as future grad students.
I still was waiting on one more response. And this M.F.A. program was the one. I spent years falling asleep at night dreaming of walking their campus, sitting inside a classroom, writing my thesis in their library. If the other schools rejected me, I was certain that this dream school would drop the same crushing rejection.
I was sullenly looking online for jobs the next day when my phone rang. The number came up as unknown, and I strangely wanted to be humored by a prank call or a telemarketer, so I picked up.
“Is this Kaitlyn Wightman?” asked the deep voice.
“Yes,” I answered suspiciously.
And then the news hit. It was a professor from my dream school calling to congratulate me on my admittance into the program. I felt like I had collapsed across the finish line of success, and, being so stunned, I kept repeating an embarrassing reply into the phone: “Is this a prank?”
I think of this success whenever I get rejected because it was this success that taught me why rejection is good.
Rejection is a Sign of Incompatibility
The reason why your writing was rejected was because it just wasn’t compatible. Writing is subjective, so your approach to writing just didn’t click with them. Spin it the other way and remind yourself that you have probably been saved from wasting your time with stingy editors, sloppy agents, or production houses that are conveniently MIA. Think back to all the times that you have dealt with these frustrating situations, and be glad that you have been spared this grief.
Rejection Lets You Learn What’s Not Working in Your Writing
If you are lucky enough to not receive a generic rejection response, you get to learn the flaws of your work. This doesn’t sound like a positive, but if this rejection diagnoses the disease that’s been plaguing your work–the problem you just couldn’t put your finger on–then you can move forward to solving the setback now.
Rejection Lets You (Sometimes) Learn What is Working in Your Writing
A mature rejection will inform you on the strengths of your work. Reaffirming strengths is the positive reinforcement that you need to continue to repeat these good writing practices in your future writing.
Rejection Motivates You to Work Harder
Rejection tests your determination to being a writer. Are you going to keep going? Instead of saying “what am I going to do now?” say “What am I going to do next?” Success is about being persistent, and successful writers are those that keep trying over and over and over again.
Rejection Opens You to New Possibilities
Reevaluation follows after rejection. You search for new publishers, new contests, new residencies, new graduate schools, new career paths–and you may pleasantly discover that the new outlet is even better for you, especially when they accept you.
Rejection Sweetens Future Success
Rejections are only addends in your addition equation where success is the triumphant sum. When you look back on your success, you remember your rejections and how much harder you pushed yourself to succeed. Rejections are flashback reminders that you didn’t give up on your writing and on yourself.
If I wasn’t rejected by the other M.F.A. programs, I might have missed the chance to attend my dream school. If my short story manuscript wasn’t rejected for publication, I would have missed the opportunity to publish somewhere more fitting. And if I wasn’t rejected by employers, I wouldn’t have started this blog.
Why do you think rejection is good? Share your reason below.