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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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