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Wednesday

Wednesday Flash Therapy: Learning to Accept Rejections

I’ve writ­ten, for sub­mis­sion, some­where between 400 and 500 essays, poems, reviews, short sto­ries, arti­cles, and short fic­tion pieces–and that means that I’ve had to fig­ure out what to make of the large num­ber of rejec­tions I’ve begun to accu­mu­late.

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Before I talk about that aspect of writ­ing, I would like to men­tion that almost every sin­gle piece that has been writ­ten and sub­mit­ted has been work­shopped, many of them more than once, almost all of them spend­ing at least 40 days being cri­tiqued and reviewed at Zoetrope Vir­tual Stu­dio. Of course, the shorter pieces might spend 2–3 months being drafted, revised, redrafted, and so on; the longer pieces might spend 6 months to a year. Some writ­ers can get it right very quickly, and I don’t begrudge their abil­ity to write a piece, sub­mit it, and pub­lish it in a shorter amount of time. I guess I’m just say­ing that I haven’t reached that point yet. 

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So what is my point? Hmmm. I usu­ally send each flash fic­tion piece to five (5) jour­nals, unless of course a jour­nal doesn’t allow sim-subs or a journal’s response time is so fast that it makes it kind of absurd to send it else­where with­out wait­ing for that journal’s deci­sion. I tend to send work out in chunks: Sep­tem­ber, Jan­u­ary, and June. As soon as a piece is accepted, I send a with­drawal request out to those jour­nals who are still con­sid­er­ing the piece. If a piece doesn’t receive an accep­tance with those ini­tial sub­mis­sions, I tend to wait for the next time I send out work (one of those three months). 

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Oh, the point. I’m not sure if one judges one’s lit­er­ary-jour­nal writ­ing career by quan­tity or qual­ity or income or per­sonal growth or risk-tak­ing or some com­bi­na­tion of these or some other fac­tors, but I like (very much) where I’ve been pub­lished and what I’ve pub­lished, and yet here is the fact: I’ve had to deal with a lot of rejec­tions. If the num­ber of sub­mit­ted pieces is 400 and each one has received two (2) rejec­tions, that’s 800. The rest of the math as one increases the prob­a­ble num­ber of rejec­tions (at five each, the num­ber becomes 2000 rejec­tions) gets rather depress­ing. It’s mighty hard feel­ing any kind of suc­cess with that many rejec­tions. I guess one has to take a base­ball men­tal­ity, (the idea that .300 is pretty good) to put it all into per­spec­tive, but it doesn’t quite work. 

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I’d like to say, or maybe I wouldn’t like to say, that I’ve become habit­u­ated to the rejec­tion note, but I haven’t. I under­stand that it’s not me who is being rejected (it’s my story) and that there are many rea­sons for a jour­nal to say “no.” Clearly, I have a han­dle on rejec­tion, or I couldn’t send out work any­more, but it some­times weighs on me, all those no’s.

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And so Wednesday’s Flash Ther­apy ses­sion ends with this note. I can­not imag­ine too many writ­ers who can com­pete with the num­ber of rejec­tions that I will be accu­mu­lat­ing through­out my career as a writer of flash fic­tion. One of my first lessons about blog­ging or com­ment­ing online from a writer was this: Don’t men­tion your rejec­tions, stu­pid! Tell them where you will be or where you’ve been, not where you want to be but haven’t been let in. But I men­tion it here to make this point: if some­one with as much anx­i­ety, self-doubt, neu­ro­sis, and panic can deal with this aspect of a writ­ing career, almost any­one can find it within him­self or her­self to fig­ure out what rejec­tions mean and to do so in a way that allows one to keep writ­ing and sub­mit­ting work. 

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Here’s what I fig­ure: it means I’m still writ­ing a lot. And that, I think, is some­thing  to be (very) happy about.

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