Nobody likes to be told they’re not good enough.
As of late, I’ve been working to get my some of my short fiction published in various literary magazines. Things aren’t going well. My inbox has been a parade of rejection letters. The worst part is that I usually realize I’m reading a rejection letter before I even finish the first sentence. But being a masochist, I have to read the letter in its entirety, as though the editor will sign off with something like “just kidding, your work is brilliant, you’re totally in.” Of course, they never do.
I know I shouldn’t let it put me in a bad mood, but I can’t help but feel discouraged. Who wants to hear that their art is inadequate? It hurts. But, I constant remind myself that getting published is not solely a matter of adequacy. Trying to get a short story published is more like shopping for shoes. You have to take style and functionality into account. Yes, your feet need to be covered, but are you going to be wearing these shoes to a wedding or out in the woods? You wouldn’t accept the same pair for each function. A short story, in the same fashion, cannot be universally accepted.
Even if this is disregarded, there is still the fact that the first readers of any given magazine is an extremely small sample size. Out of the thousands of potential readers, it is a statistical impossibility that 100% will dislike a story, just as it is equally impossible that 100% will like a story. That’s not to say that the ratio is at an even fifty-fifty, but it is reassuring to think that someone somewhere wants to publish my writing.
But even outside of writing, one should learn to steel themselves against rejection. It’s one of the uglier parts of life, but it’s an inevitability. And while you may want to kick and scream and throw a tantrum until you get your way, it’s far better to accept rejection with dignity. It allows an opportunity for improvement.
Still, that doesn’t make its sting any less harsh.