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“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath
For nine months, I’ve kept a box sealed up in my apartment. I brought it with me from Arizona last summer. Inside, tucked in between old manuscripts and saved letters is a small, neat stack of rejections. Some came in the mail; most by email. I printed each of them out and used to have them thumb-tacked to a bulletin board that hung near my desk in my old office.
When I moved into my new place, I placed the bulletin board behind the bedroom door, unseen. The rejections from literary journals, websites and writing competitions stayed in their box. I taped it shut and was tempted to leave it like that. It’s so much easier to ignore them than to face them each day.
But this week, there was a change in the weather. The first tease of a Washington summer brought blue skies and warmth — and a strange idea. My musty, cavelike apartment needed to be aired out. I threw open the windows and doors to let the space breathe. And the fresh air must have gone to my head.
I grabbed a knife and started cutting through the packing tape on the boxes I had left sealed and stacked in a corner. I went looking for my rejections. Because just like my apartment, they need to be dusted off. I realize now that I need to see them. No one likes to think about their failures, but I need to be reminded of how far I’ve come and far I still have to go. I need to face rejection and use it to propel me to improve, not bury it in a box to be forgotten.
Maybe I’ll hang the bulletin board up and pin the rejections where I can see them while I write. Maybe I’ll print off my recent rejection notices. Maybe it will hurt to read them. Maybe that will spur me onward.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a comment below. How do you deal with rejection? Tell me your secrets!