Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar

There are a few ways I’ve found to take the sting off of rejections that I wanted to share. The thing about rejections (as I know I’ve said before) is that they are an important part of being a writer. If you’re not receiving rejections, then you’re probably not really even in the game. It’s important, then, that we try to look at rejections in a sort of positive light, that we try to be happy about receiving rejections because they’re a good sign, really. They mean you’re sending things out there. They mean you’re doing the things a writer has to do. I’ve talked before about using rejections as a motivational tool, but I think it’s also important that we see the rejections themselves as a positive thing. After all, if you were not receiving rejections that would mean you were not submitting.

Recently, my husband Damien and I started using a rewards system, which we put together from a composite of other writers systems that we had heard about and liked. Our system goes like this: for every one hundred points that you earn, you get a $25 Amazon gift card. Every response you ever receive to your work earns at least one point. A journal acceptance is worth ten points, a manuscript or partial manuscript request is worth five, a personal rejection is worth two points, and a form rejection – those puny little half-slips of paper that so effortlessly make our hearts sink – are worth one point. No matter what response you just received, you’re still that much closer to your reward.

I like this system because it reminds us that even the most basic form rejection is still worth something in the grand scheme of the writing life. Yes, I’d rather get a personal rejection (two points) and of course I’d rather get an acceptance (ten points!), but notice that the divide between points is not that astronomical. An acceptance is worth ten times more than a rejection, but you’d still need to get ten acceptances before you made it to your reward. Really, the way to get to that reward is to have a steady stream of responses coming in– it doesn’t really matter that much what the responses are, as long as you’re sending your work out there and getting something back.

There are two other things that I’ve found make rejections not feel so bad. One is to be perpetually engaged in other writing projects. If you’re anything like me, you tend to feel like whatever current new piece you’re writing is the best thing you’ve ever written. This is a good feeling, and it makes rejections for the older stuff, the stuff you had already finished and started sending around, feel less significant. No big deal, you think. Just wait until I finish this story/poem/book and start sending it out!

The other thing that helps is to send out sim subs to multiple different venues. When I first started submitting, I was kind of nervous about sim subs. More and more places these days accept (even encourage!) simultaneous submissions, but I was worried that if I did get an acceptance, it might be time consuming to track down the contact info for the other journals I had sent that story to. The truth is that yes, it’s kind of time consuming (and sometimes a journal or two will apparently not receive the withdrawal when you send it in), but when you get an acceptance you don’t really care. You’re so excited that X journal will be publishing X piece, you’re more than willing to slog through the withdrawal process.

And the thing is, if you get a rejection for a piece that, let’s say, you’d sent out to twenty different journals, that one rejection doesn’t really bother you because one of those other nineteen might still accept it. In my experience, the same exact piece can receive a “Dear Author” form rejection from one journal and an enthusiastic acceptance from another. If you only send out to one place at a time, if/when that place rejects it, that rejection is going to feel much heavier than if there were several places who were still considering that piece.

So there you have it. Not only are rejections not such a bad thing, really they’re a good thing, in my opinion. Send your work out there, and be happy when you get those little half-slips back. A half-slip, “Dear Author, Thanks but no thanks,” response is still something. Everything you ever do as a writer is always worth something.

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