Saturday, 15 December 2018

Feeling Rejected

© Rebecca Renner

I write. Occasionally I get published, but most of the time I don't. People who don't write (at least not with the aim of getting published) sometimes ask me how that works. I usually answer that it's a case of being in the right place at the right moment — and that you have to invest a lot of time and effort into something that might not take off, or worse, might get stolen.

The outlets that many people know and read will often have a general submissions page, or a standard editorial@... on the contact page. However, as anyone who's fired off a pitch into one of these voids knows, in order to at least increase the likelihood of being noticed, it's best to get personal. Many editors have their email address listed in their Twitter bio; otherwise, like me, you'll scour masthead pages for hints on who the right contact could be (if nothing else, doing your research usually doesn't go unappreciated).

In certain circles, editorial contacts and rates are passed around like a joint at a house party. I make a note of these, feeling smug in the knowledge that I've done some legwork, and certain that one day I'll have the perfect idea for this editor and be able to make use of this contact. However, as you may have noticed, publishing is an increasingly volatile environment. Editors get laid off, they move around, or that website that seemed perfect for your piece no longer exists — take Rookie and Racked from the past quarter alone!

That's one reason why, as a writer, you are haunted by a feeling of immense pressure. Not only have you probably got have things like imposter syndrome to contend with, but if, like me, you don't always find it easy to find the focus required to advocate for your work, and you struggle to get into the right headspace to even feel like putting yourself out there, you might just feel like giving up.

The other reason is... ugh, yep, comparison to others. You know it's pointless and that it's the biggest thief of energy, time, and motivation, but it's still something you might find yourself indulging in. Quite often, I have to just plain sign out of Twitter (if I then try to go on it, being faced with the login page is usually enough to remind me why). This thread says it all:

This isn't intended as a whinge about how writers have it sooo hard. It's more to express the fact that since I've changed my mindset to embrace rejection, I've kind of made peace with it.

I'm in a Facebook community for women, trans, and gender non-conforming writers around the world (it's a "first rule of [community] is don't talk about [community]" kind of deal). One sub-group of this is for people to talk about rejections, to commiserate over unfair circumstances, to share advice, but most often to celebrate being rejected by editors, by agents, for residencies, and so on. Some members are self-proclaimed "rejects", and to me, this is as healthy as self-deprecation can get.

Yes, of course rejection is disappointing. At my worst, I wonder if I'm ever going to get anything published again. I know I will — I have to! — but that's only going to happen if I keep trying. Rejection shows me I'm doing something right; that I'm putting in the work.

Here's a selection of places I've pitched in 2018, and the types of rejections I've received:

The New York Times (swift rejection, but personal and funny!)
Catapult (detailed and encouraging rejection)
Broadly (detailed rejection)
The Atlantic (standard rejection)
Vox (standard rejection)
The New Inquiry (standard rejection)
New Statesman (no answer)
Cosmopolitan (no answer)
Marie Claire (no answer)

And just in case you can't get enough of rejection, NYT happened to publish yet another person's experience with it yesterday.