You never forget your first. I know that saying is more often used in reference to something else (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) but the same sentiment can also be applied to rejection letters.
Recently, while sorting through boxes of papers in my home office, I came across my Grade 12 Creative Writing portfolio. Nestled inside was this carefully preserved gem: my first rejection from a publication.
In my Creative Writing class, we worked on several pieces throughout the year (which is how I discovered poetry was not my forte) but our main project was a short work of fiction. Our teacher told us when we felt our story was as good as it could be, we had to submit it to at least two publications.
Now, this was back in the 90s when you actually mailed in your pages (yes, with envelope & stamps) and if the publication wasn’t interested, they might mail your pages back with a note attached. Or you might never hear from them at all, as was the case with the other magazine I submitted to. But I digress…
When this kind rejection from Seventeen Magazine arrived in my mailbox I was devastated. At 17, I hadn’t had time to develop any kind of imposter syndrome yet and thought my story was PERFECT for them and HOW COULD THEY NOT WANT IT?!
Side note: I’d happily welcome that level of self-confidence back at anytime, thank you very much.
As I was one of the first students to get a response I was horribly embarrassed to share the news with the rest of the class. That’s when my teacher said something that totally changed the way I viewed that rejection and all the others that were still to come.
“Kelly, this is just the first of many rejections you will get. And if you don’t push through the no’s, you’ll never get your first yes.”
Rejections are a reality for all writers. We get them from editors and agents first and then, when we are lucky enough to published, we get them from readers and book critics. Rejection plays a big role in this crazy industry we have chosen to be a part of.
But you know what else plays a big role? Resiliency, persistence and acceptance. Because, at each step in our writing journey, from a sea of potential (and unavoidable) no’s, we just need that one yes.
PS – after rereading my short story now I totally understand the rejection. Good lord, did I have a lot of teenage angst and drama running through me back then. 🙄