Waiting on a Rejection Letter

July 7, 2017

“Em, are you ready to go yet?”

“Just a second, I have to check my email.”

“Again? Really?”

“I can’t help it! I’m waiting on a rejection letter.”


The above conversation has probably occurred in my household at least seven times, and why not? Someone read my writing, said, “Hmm, not right for this magazine,” and then emailed me about it. Which of course sounds like a negative (and I suppose in many ways it is), but rejection letters are like ripples emanating from the spot where you dropped a nice, flat stone into a body of water. They remind of you what was there, that things are moving because of it. Of course, acceptance letters are even more exciting, but that’s like watching a stone skip. A satisfying feeling, no doubt, but difficult to achieve. A good plop as the right stone sinks into the murky soup that your local park rangers like to pass off as a lake makes for a worthwhile second choice.

Perhaps I’m taking the figurative language a bit far. Okay then, moving on from that.

When you submit your writing, you’re putting yourself out there, and rejection is an inevitable result. I’m not saying that your writing will always be rejected and that you’re doomed to never be published, but rejection still going to happen. Even great poems get rejected, because sometimes editors really mean it when they say that your piece just doesn’t fit their current magazine or issue. I get rejected all the time, and I also had a poem nominated for Best of the Net 2016. Contrary to what your common sense might tell you, these things are not mutually exclusive.

So what do you actually do when you get rejected? Well, to each their own, but I usually just find a new magazine and submit my poems again. Or I submit different poems to the same magazine if I like what they publish enough. Usually when you like what a publication is doing your work will more or less fit in with theirs, and while that doesn’t mean that they’ll publish you, it is a start.

After a long string of rejections, it might be worth revisiting or even retiring a piece of writing. Still, I would encourage young writers not to be discouraged by rejection. It happens to everyone, and it doesn’t mean that a piece of writing isn’t well worth reading.  

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