I’d submitted a short story, The Untimely Death of Theodore Baldin in October. I won’t say I’ve been checking the “status” page of the website every few days ever-since, but I won’t lie either. So last Friday an e-mail appears in my inbox from the publisher, and I got to open it and was all excited before lunch and I opened it oh my god here’s the answer and it is
And you know what, opening up that e-mail with the polite form-letter rejection? I’m still positively stoked.
It’s not failure
It might be a little odd to be excited about rejection (and I really wish I’d had that enthusiasm in high school), but truly that is exciting for me to be rejection. To understand why is to go back to my post for my 2016 goals: my goal is to get my work out there. A rejection letter is exciting because it is tangible proof that, yes, my work is out there. Somewhere, some poor over-worked bastard got paid to skim through the first chunk of my short story, and decided it wasn’t for them. The fact that someone is even looking is way more than I can say about the rest of my writing in the past 10 years.
In order for that story to even be there, submitted, it had to be done. I’ve abandoned a fair number of works over the years, and so being able to have a piece that is coherent enough and complete enough for me to shop around, that’s exciting. It’s not failure to get rejected; it’s my proof that it is good enough to be looked at to begin with.
It’s about time
When I was 18 I was hoping to get work published by the time I was 25 – and then I quit writing (that’s a long story for another day). I’m back in the grind of it but I’m not a teenager anymore. A solid decade has gone by. I’ve realized how quickly a couple months turns into two years. Time has no take-backsies, and while I can’t change what I’ve done I can make sure I’m using the time I do have to get there.
Plus, I’m being realistic: this is a long game. I’m not going to make it big with my first submission, my first short story, my first whatever. I don’t pretend to think I’m a special enough snowflake to buck that trend. I mean, if you asked me when I was 18, probably, yeah, but that’s the advantage of diving into this being a little older I suppose.
It’s going to be a grind. It’s not going to be happening overnight. Rejections are just another brick in this edifice I am building. To me it represents the discipline, patience, and work I’m putting in. I’ll keep laying out these bricks and collecting my rejections just like we collect our pay-stubs, and I’ll pile them up until I manage to hit another first.
There’s also a practical reason I’m excited about that rejection. With that short story turned down, it’s a chance to briefly revisit the project. That’s fin; it’s kind of like meting an old friend and going out for coffee. I can see it with fresh eyes, and once we have this little catch-up chat, I’ll send it off someone else.
And then? I’ll keep working on the next project.
Rejection isn’t no. It’s not yet. Now to put in the sweat to get better.