They’re just as annoying as memos.

movie theater

Literary magazine staff and manuscript readers must have just come back from their summer vacations, all refreshed and sharp — everyone seems to be writing about rejections.


I got one yesterday too. And it’s not the first. It’s strange: Every day when I reach my mailbox I have a surge of hope. I flip through the mail to see if there’s something for me. Which is really kind of perverse, since any success would be known not by a letter in the mail delivered by the actual postal service, but via email. (Or, if I was really cool, you know, like New Yorker writer cool, by phone. I’m definitely not really cool.)
I should be eagerly checking my email everyday instead of rushing home to my mailbox.

And yet. There’s something thrilling about getting that letter in the mail, for the half-second that you hold it in your hand and slip your finger into that little opening at the corner of the envelope and tear. Most likely, you already know what’s inside. So why the surge of excitement? I suppose some weird part of me likes to know who is rejecting me. Or maybe it’s just a too-much-technology desire for old-fashioned, paper mail. Yeah, the slow kind. The kind that costs money.

I’m not saying rejections aren’t hard. Man, they sure are. But I’m learning to let go of them. Which is the same as learning to let go of your writing, in a way. It’s part of the process. That’s one of the reasons I went back to full-time work as a reporter. I wanted to learn to let go of my writing, to write quickly and feel no attachment to it. As a reporter you know your writing will be edited and packaged, and you know most of that is beyond your control.

I am always much too attached. It’s hard not to be, even with stories I write at work. But there’s no time to get emotional, attached, or upset when your story gets cut or buried. There’s always another story, for one. And also, they’re just words.

So I’ve starting to think about each rejection received as a reminder of sorts. A kind of Post-It note, maybe, that says, “Time to send this piece out again, somewhere else.”


3 thoughts on “They’re just as annoying as memos.

  1. I’m definitely better with the detachment when it comes to short story submissions. Those rejections don’t hurt too much; most of the time they don’t hurt at all. It’s the novel (lit agent) rejections that can be killers. I think because the stakes are so much higher, and because so much time was involved on my end. It’s like years of your life going down the drain. Wow, I sound soooo dramatic! And oddly enough it feels worse when you get this-close and the rejection comes by phone call. Anyway, that’s how it felt for me. Obviously I’m still reeling from things that happened over a year ago. I need to let go.

    I do like your post-it note theory.

  2. Definitely agent rejections would be much tougher. I was talking more about litmags. Just the effort spent on putting together a submission for an agent is so, so much more than for a litmag, and that’s time consuming enough!
    I think sending a full-length manuscript out to agents is an accomplishment in and of itself, regardless of the outcome.

  3. I guess the litmag rejections are training grounds for the writing life (and novel life), which is inevitably filled with rejection.

    Ugh. I got a bunch of rejections a couple months ago–still waiting to hear from one mag, but I don’t have my hopes up!

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