This week, I got a rejection from a prominent science fiction journal. Rejections are common when you’re a writer trying to publish short fiction. The competition is fierce and editors can only publish so many stories. They have to draw the line somewhere, so the vast majority of responses you get when shopping around a story are: “No thanks” or “This isn’t what we’re looking for.”
I’ve received my fair share of rejections since I first started sending out my short stories. The first ten or twenty really hurt. It felt personal, even though I knew it was a professional judgment on whether the story fit a particular editor’s needs, but it always felt like a condemnation of my dream of being a writer. Each rejection that piled up felt like an argument that I wasn’t any good; that I should give up.
I don’t feel that way anymore.
Maybe I grew a thicker skin to criticism or perhaps I’ve learned to distance myself emotionally from the process. But for whatever reason, I’ve come to see rejections as motivating rather than discouraging.
The rejection I received this week felt good. It’s been a busy year and quality writing time is scarce these days. This was my first rejection in over a year for the simple fact that I hadn’t submitted anything to a literary journal in so long.
So, when I got this rejection, it felt like I’d earned it. I had risked something and taken the bold step of sending a story that I’d been polishing for years out into the world. I had accomplished something and that felt good.
Rejection is never fun, but look closer. The story I sent wasn’t what this editor was looking to publish — but they still liked it — and they invited me to submit again if I write something else. As far as rejections go, this one gave me hope that I am a decent writer after all and that my work is enjoyable to read.
The same day I got that rejection, I submitted to the next journal on my list of favorite places to read contemporary sci-fi. They also turned it down, but I still feel like I’m back in the running and I’m more determined than ever to find this piece a home.
Rejection can feel like defeat. Or it can feel like a nudge in the right direction. It’s up to you.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA who dabbles in filmmaking and photography. He’s (slowly) working on a novel manuscript and seeking publication for a pretty cool time travel short story. His previous fiction has appeared in the pages of Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine.