Between novels, short stories, and, now, a mini-documentary, I find myself submitting to agents, journals, and festivals almost continuously. This means that rejection is a constant companion. And it can be difficult to handle.
When I’m faced with a barrage of “Not for us,” or “No thanks,” it’s vital that I keep a level head. Especially because rejection has several meanings, which tend to fall into one of the following categories:
- Insufficient Quality
- Excessive Quantity
- Lack of Compatibility
- Extreme Exclusivity
Admittedly, quality is a depressing reason to be rejected, but it’s not the most frustrating. If the work isn’t of a high enough quality, it can be improved, so there’s hope. All that’s necessary is more work. Sometimes years of work.
When it comes to issues of quantity, we may find that our work has been edged out by similar writing or a piece that has been written by someone of higher stature. In other words, the market is flooded.
If work is sent into an agent or journal (or any other entity calling for entries) and it’s rejected, it could be because of contradicting visions. There’s no compatibility in this situation. Sometimes it can be fixed, but often first impressions take precedence.
Exclusivity can be the worse reason for a rejection, especially if our work is of sufficient quality. This kind of pass could be the result of who we don’t know. Another type of exclusivity occurs when an agency isn’t taken on new writers.
Anytime rejection is encountered, we have to keep pushing ourselves and our work forward. Rejection is not an invitation to give up. However, it is an invitation to be honest with ourselves. Remember the first category. Is it a lack of quality? If it is, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and try again.
If it’s not, we should seek acceptance elsewhere or… try again. However, we should also exercise caution. It’s possible to start believing that the quality of our work is inadequate when it isn’t. Evaluate the work objectively. If it holds up, look to some of the other reasons for a no.
If you can’t place the piece elsewhere, then move on. This might sound radical, but try not to get too attached to your work, especially if it’s going to hinder what comes along next. There are other projects and opportunities that may offer a greater possibilities for success.
photo: Steve Johnson