Rejected, Again

A couple of months ago I entered a short story I’d written into The Missouri Review’s contest, hopeful I’d win (or at least place).

The rejection letter came this week.

They had a lot of entrants, they said, and the quality was “extraordinarily high.” They wished me well on my writing journey.


It would have been nicer to win — $5,000 plus publication would have made my day!

But at least I tried. I put my work out there, and someone (or perhaps many someones!) read it.

And I realized something about myself — before, early in my foray into creative writing, rejection hit me hard. I brooded about it for days, reading and re-reading the letter or postcard, wondering how I could have secured a better outcome. I saved my rejection letters in a file, too, mentally criticizing how some secretary had misfolded the letter. Or how somebody had worded the form response. Or how somebody hadn’t even taken the time to actually sign the letter.

No more.

Sure, rejection stinks. It stings, too.

But only for a moment.

These days I’m handling it better. More realistically. More maturely.

I’m not fixating on the rejection. Or the feelings at being rejected.

Rejection is what it is.

Somebody’s opinion of something I wrote. Period.

Maybe it wasn’t the best “something” I could ever create. Maybe, when lined up next to something somebody else created, it didn’t measure up.


I still shared something of myself with a portion of the world. Not everybody who reads what I write is going to like it (shoot, sometimes I re-read something I wrote and I don’t like it!).

Writing isn’t math. You can’t just add two plus two and get four. As a creative outlet, writing is more like art or music.

Some people will “get” it and like it; others won’t.

Does that make our writing any less worthwhile?

Of course not.

If you haven’t been rejected lately, you haven’t been submitting (unless you’ve got a perfect batting record!). And if you haven’t been submitting, how can you expect to get published??

30 thoughts on “Rejected, Again

  1. Zing, Debbie. You really nailed rejection is simply part of the writing process and the sooner one accepts it ,the better. I love your line “if you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t submitting” I have been rejected far more times than I’ve been accepted or recognized and you are right, it stings.But ( & it’s what comes after the but that counts) it does get easier and then I move on to the next project or work on refining the rejected one. If Stephen King can wallpaper his writing space with rejection letters ( On Writing) then so can I.

    Thank you for a wonderful post,my friend!

    • I guess I could say, Misery loves company, but I’d never wish for one of my friends to suffer rejection, Kathy! I know you know what it feels like, too, and it isn’t fun. BUT at least we’re trying! And you’re right, it does get easier to accept. Stephen King certainly wasn’t the only best-selling author to face rejection — I suppose we should be glad to be in such esteemed company!

  2. I was going to suggest the same Stephen King idea! Make a rejection scrapbook or album or frame them. They’re every bit as useful as the awards and kudos that are sure to follow if you keep putting yourself out there.

    Speaking of which — maybe you posted your story (?) — I don’t have nearly as much reading time as I’d like. But if you haven’t, if you properly copyright it, and you’re not planning to submit it elsewhere, you have a readership right here.

    Good luck and. . .write on. 🙂

    • What kind words, Hipster — I thank you from the bottom of my heart! No, I haven’t published any of my stuff online. Yet. I’ve been thinking about it and checking the ramifications. Perhaps I need to set up an additional Page off my blog, one where I give at least a synopsis of my novels? Hmmm, the wheels are turning; let me think this through. It’s nice to know somebody would take the time to read it for me!

  3. Thank you, Debbie, for your candor on a subject most of us don’t like talking about. Rejection is probably the singular bad side to writing. But all we can do as writers, is to keep at it. Persevere and one of these days, just maybe, with all the luck and pluck in the world, it’ll happen.

    • Yes, Monica, I do believe perseverance, luck, and dogged determination play a huge role in getting our novels traditionally published. That said, more and more of us are “discovering” non-traditional ways of becoming published. Perhaps, if rejection didn’t hurt so much, others of us wouldn’t keep doing what we do to perfect our craft!

    • You’re most welcome, Lynne. I think it’s important we try to write the best we know how, but keep in mind that not everyone is going to appreciate our efforts!

  4. I have never tried to get anything published…but I DID spend a year looking for work, interviewing, sending resumes…and those rejection letters sting too. But I got over it, figured it was their loss not to hire me. I still think that.

    Best wishes with your published’s admirable…and something I sometimes think I want to do…but of course isn’t that fear of failure what keeps most of us from trying? I guess if I could handle employment rejection I could handle writing reject…right?

    • Absolutely right! Employment rejection hurts just as bad; perhaps more, since it’s not something we created that’s being judged, it’s ourselves! A whole year, huh? That takes perseverance. I’m glad you finally found something because this isn’t a good time to be out of work.

  5. Sorry about the rejection. It does sting but you have the right attitude. They aren’t saying they don’t like your submission they are saying it does not work for them right now. This time they are choosing chocolate instead of strawberry. Asshats )
    Publish it on your blog. Why not. Of-course I have no idea how that impacts being able to submit it to other publications. As far as copywrite Seth Godin just wrote an interesting article:

    • I love that — “they are choosing chocolate instead of strawberry.” Wonderful analogy, one I’ll have to remember! It’s too true, I’m afraid, when it comes to writing contests. But judges are people, just like us, and they have a right to their opinions on what they like and what doesn’t work for them. Good post on copyright, too!

  6. I’m sorry about the rejection, but it sounds like you’re handling it well. You’ve got a great attitude about it. The complicated things about submissions is that it’s not just the writing that determines whether or not it is accepted. It also depends on the timing of the market and also the person’s mood that day. (For instance, if they are having a cranky day, a sentimental love story might annoy them.) When all of the elements are right, you’ll get a letter with news you’ll be excited to get 🙂

    (I haven’t submitted anything for many months, so the sting of rejection has worn off!)

    • Good for you, Janna! I think, as writers, we tend to be pretty thin-skinned when it comes to our work. We want everybody to love and accept our “babies” (whether they’re short stories, poems, fiction, or whatever) the way we do. Maybe we need to “grow a thick hide” so it doesn’t hurt as much when we’re rejected. You’re right in saying a lot of things play into those rejections, though. Guess that’s where “luck” comes in!

  7. Lady, where would writing be if it weren’t for rejection. Kudos to you for putting yourself out there! As for the rejection, I see it as totally subjective. It may just be that while the particular group of people who read your story didn’t think it passed muster, a different group may have felt differently. So let me amend that to, writing is part rejection, part talent, and part luck. Yep, that sounds about right. May this rejection encourage you to submit many more writing pieces!

    • Thanks, Bella, for your encouragement. You’re one wise woman! Talent and luck — that about sums it all up. Sadly, it was the same back in school. One teacher would LOVE everything I wrote, yet for another, nothing I handed in was impressive. Sigh….

  8. Rejection does hurt, but it is simply part of the process. I comfort myself my reminding myself that someone must be rejected for someone to be accepted for publication….I haven’t submitted anything for the past year, hopefully I’ll have more time to submit soon…need time to gear myself up for those rejections!

    • I think it’s ideal to have a LOT of things circulating at the same time. You know, as soon as something is rejected, send something else (or the same piece) out to a different place. You’ve made an interesting point, though (one I hadn’t really thought of) — someone must be rejected for someone to be accepted. Perhaps I should simply rejoice that someone, somewhere, has some good news!

    • Hi Nicole. Welcome, and thanks for leaving your comment — maybe it’s true that misery loves company, for I’m finding a lot of consolation when folks sympathize with me!

  9. ***Some people will “get” it and like it; others won’t.***

    Yes, this is true.

    Rejection hurts. We take it personally. We beat ourselves up. We may assume we are not good enough.

    ….but only for a while. Then we go on….

    I can truly relate to this post…and I am quite sure many people can. Xx

    • Kim, I’m sorry you can relate to the pain of rejection, but it’s nice not to be the only one rejected! Yes, picking ourselves up and trying again — persevering — seems to be a good trait for writers to have. Thanks for your kind words!

  10. How often do we hear that a book was rejected over and over and over before finally being accepted by a publisher. And then it becomes one of those sensations that everyone wants to read. Since you continue to try, I fully expect you’ll be published. It’s just a matter of time.

    I have never submitted anything for publication. It never occurred to me to write for any purpose but my blog. Food for thought.

    • Oh, Terri, your words are music to my ears — to think that publication could be just around the corner! You’re right in saying that most writers submit and submit, over and over, until they succeed. You, too, might think about writing a short story or poem and seeing if someone wants to publish it!

    • Bella is one wise lady, Totsymae! Yes, I suspect “who you know” does have a hand in this (at least, it seems to, for writers who go from conference to conference, meeting agents and publishers, are often more successful — perhaps it’s easier rejecting a faceless query than looking someone in the eye and doing it?!)

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