A few weeks ago I applied to be a contributor at an online magazine. It was kind of on a whim, and even though I didn’t necessarily feel 100% suited to the intended subject matter, I went for it anyway. I was trying to try, since that’s my One Word, and it seemed like it could be a possible avenue for growth, both in my writing and in my perspective.
As sometimes happens, I received that fated rejection letter today. In all honesty, I had forgotten about my application in the first place, and while I never like to get a rejection letter, I wasn’t all the surprised.
I was, on the other hand, annoyed.
You see, I like to win. I like to be picked and I like to be noticed. In my senior year of college we had this assignment to put together our portfolios and resumes for future literary employment. My friend James and I had a friendly competition going and when his portfolio and resume got higher marks than mine did, I was livid. I went home, clicked on my computer for two days straight and arrived back in class with a victorious case of carpal tunnel syndrome and our professor’s high praise. I didn’t really care about the resume and it never got me that job in journalism (though it served me well when I eventually landed that coveted, ahem, secretarial position), but I wanted to be the best.
I’m annoyed I wasn’t recognized, that I didn’t win. But in the long run, it doesn’t matter because I’m learning a few things about rejection.
1) Rejection will never happen if you never try. It’s true. If you don’t want to be rejected, don’t try. Whew! That’s a relief! However, never trying means always wondering what might’ve been. What’s worse: if you never try, you’ll never win, never get chosen, never hear “Yes! We want you!” I’ve heard that a few precious times, and it is worth the trying. It’s even worth a few rejections. (Case in point: an online writing course said we should risk rejection and submit a guest post to writers we admire. So I emailed a blogger whose style and vision matched my own and just asked. She ran my story that very week. Trying sometimes works, ya’ll!)
2) Rejection can clarify your calling. Did I want this opportunity? Yes, I did! I wanted to grow in my writing, I wanted to make a difference. And honestly, I wanted the exposure. But I didn’t feel especially called to the vision they have for their site. I knew I could do the work, but I didn’t feel passionate about it. Maybe this is just me trying to make myself feel better, but getting that rejection confirmed it wasn’t the place for me. And it spurs me on to find the niche where I belong.
3) Rejection is hard for them, too. My rejectors felt really bad about it. They wanted to hug me, they said (another sign it wasn’t the best place for me, as I super like my personal space). But with great power comes great responsibility, which sometimes means saying “No, I’m sorry. This isn’t the place for you.” To be the bearer of bad news is never fun and most of us don’t like letting others down. Just because they rejected me doesn’t mean I suck or that they’re horrible. They’re a good group of people, so I’ll keep following their site; maybe even submit a piece or two. 😉
4) Rejection gets easier with time. No one gets rejected forever and I’ve had several great yesses! And though I hate not getting picked to play on so-and-so’s team, I’ll keep on trying out and showing up. Those rejection letters are a part of a writer’s life. I think they’re a part of everyone’s life. There’s no escaping them, so we might as well lean into them, learn the rules and play the game. Because when the yes comes? It makes up for every no that came before.
Do you find it hard to try for something you you’re just not sure about? Or have you recently heard that dreaded “No?”