Contributing writer Savanah Burns wrote this post offering advice on how to accept rejection in the world of writing.
A former creative writing professor of mine once explained said that she received a small card, no bigger than a business card, in the mail. On this little card, were the words, “Your submission was not accepted.”
Rejection is meant to be small, but it is something writers can carry around with them, just as one would carry around a business card. However, this professor embraced this idea that her rejection was not personal, it was business.
I recall sitting in a poetry class, participating in a poetry exercise led by a peer. She had sentences cut into strips. She passed ten or so out to everyone. When I got my ten quotes, I noticed they were all rejection statements. She asked us to rearrange these quotes into any order we felt was best. Then we went around in a circle and read the quotes aloud.
A collection of the brief rejection statements went along these lines:
- We enjoyed reading your submission, but we regret to inform you that your piece, “title,” was not accepted.
- We have concluded out reading period, and while interested in your novel, we cannot at this time publish your novel due to its marketability.
- Your poems, “title 1,” “title 2,” and “title 3” was not right for our magazine. Thanks for submitting.
- Your submission was not accepted. Thank you for letting us read.
- Thank you for offering us your novel, but we are not accepting manuscripts at this time.
- We regret to inform you that your submission has not been accepted.
- Thank you for being interested in submitting your manuscript, but we cannot publish you at this time.
- Thanks for submitting to General Publishing Press, but your novel was not selected. We hope to read your writing again.
- Your submission was not accepted.
- Your submission is not what General Publishing Press is looking for at the moment.
One by one, we read our poems. By the end of the exercise, the classroom was unnerved and stirred, faced with their collection of rejection statements.
After reading so many of these rejections, it brings a writer to the point of asking, “What’s the point?” When we came to the end of the circle, the peer leading the exercise read her poem. Her poem mirrored the rest of ours. It was filled with rejection.
However, the last line was different: “We are pleased to inform you that your novel has been accepted.” There was a heaviness in the air that lifted.
The class asked what made her think of this activity, and she explained that she had submitted her novel to several presses. When she counted up all of her rejection letters, she had at least 120 statements. All of the rejection statements we read were her own, so was her acceptance statement.
When it comes to the world of writing, there are a few words you might hear until the words themselves become indifferent and numb: rejection. Some of the statements writers receive are as long as letters, but more than often, writers are faced with a short memo which leaves them feeling discouraged.
However, it is in these moments that writers are faced with the decision on how to handle their rejection. Handling rejection is like carrying around a business card; either a writer can carry it around, or they can throw it away knowing that it is business and nothing personal.
Handling rejection can also be overwhelming. Will a writer continue to persevere until they make a break through, and will they make something out of their rejection so to encourage others? How you handle rejection will determine your writing career. Here at the Texas Review Press, we encourage you to continue on in your endeavors.
Savanah Burns is a young poet from Huntsville. She studied English and History at Sam Houston State University, where she completed a short novella for her honors thesis. Her writing has been featured in Beacon, an undergraduate magazine, and HistoricalMX, an online historical journal. Her poem, “Starry Night,” won first prize in 2016 for a college and university contest held by The Academy of American Poets, which included an online publication. She is currently pursuing an M. F. A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry at SHSU. She is a new addition to the Texas Review Press as a graduate assistant, as well as a new addition to the Gordian Review as its poetry editor. She is excited for what lies ahead.