A writer asked the other day whether or not writers should reject rejection. Huh? Anyway, here's what I suggested.
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Okay, kiddies and kiddiettes, for starters, let me say that I'm stunned by one person's response to this question. It comes from some Coffee Shop representative, whatever on earth that is, pretending she knows what she's talking about when she obviously doesn't. Here's why.
That respondent said that receipt of a rejection slip is "meaningless" and doesn't imply that your work is bad but merely means "Your work isn't the right fit for us right now because of genre/market conditions/my personal preferences/etc." Even more likely, it could be (and most likely is) a wake-up call for you to learn to write better, pitch better, or pack up your things and get the hell out of Dodge.
Yes, all those things this "former Author" (again, whatever on earth that means) and Coffee Shop graduate mentioned could be possible, but they're hardly likely.
Would you like to know the number-one reason I rejected pitches or queries or even complete submissions when I was editing a national magazine and, later, a series of regional newspapers? They sucked. By that I mean the writing was poor, the concept was poor, the punctuation and grammar were poor, and the execution was juvenile.
Now, with that said, would you like to know the number-two reason for my rejections? The material wasn't suitable for my publication., which means the author didn't research what our submission guidelines were. As a general-interest family publication, our listings said that we didn't accept overtly sexually oriented material. Or fiction. Or biographies. Or memoirs. Or crossword puzzles. Or poetry. Or shorts. Or commercially oriented articles.
The number-three reason? We had recently run something similar to the author's pitch, which means (again) that the author didn't research us sufficiently well and ended up wasting everybody's time and energy.
Oh, and, about Ms. Coffee Klatch's remarks regarding developing a thick skin and how rejection sucks and it hurts, guess what? It doesn't matter! Either you're a writer driven to write and publish, and rejection slips don't hurt any more, or you're a wannabe writer hoping to score a quick, easy sale to salve your oh-so-fragile ego, and rejection slips hurt like hell.
I began writing for sale when I was fifteen. By "for sale," I mean "for sale hopefully." I probably sent out five hundred or more queries, pitches, and manuscripts before I received my first acceptance—nine years after my first rejection slip! Do you think for an instant that every rejection slip didn't hurt? Do you think that every one I received didn't suck?
If so, you're wrong. The first one or ten or fifty may have hurt and may have sucked, but after that, I grit my teeth and, with every turn-down, resolved to get better at my craft and get published. And I did. And, you know what? The hurting and the sucking got to a point where they didn't matter anymore. In fact, I never even noticed them.
In the meantime, I resolved to become a better writer. It wasn't easy. It didn't happen via osmosis. I took college-level courses. I read (relatively worthless) advice in writing magazines. I enrolled in writing workshops. I began stringing for a local suburban newspaper chain (look it up). I got a job as an assistant editor at a national magazine and worked my way up to editor over the next seven years. I wrote freelance articles for other magazines. I got a part-time job as an assistant acquisitions editor at a book publisher. I wrote (relatively brilliant) advice in those same writing magazines. I landed a gig as a regular contributing editor at a couple different consumer and trade magazines. I ghostwrote. I wrote audio and video scripts. I became a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. I taught writing workshops. I learned.
All the while, as the rejection slips kept coming in, I was too busy planning my next pitch to let them bother me.
Planning ahead, working ahead, ignoring what wannabe writers might let derail them, hurt them, discourage them, sink them. The question always comes down to this:
Are you all in, or aren't you? Is becoming a successful, published writer something you can't stop striving toward, or is it only a fleeting fantasy?
I think you get my point. Hopefully, Ms. Coffee Klatch does, too. Along with all you real writers out there in Not-So-Never-Never Land who won't give up the goal no matter what, and who won't let "thick skin" or "thin skin" or any skin at all get in your way. Rejection should not be "meaningless." It should teach us something, no matter what. It should teach us something.
I'm done now. My soapbox rental time is up.
So, let me leave you with some real advice. Write as if your life depended upon it, and …
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.