On Rejection

This is a post I never published from spring 2017, yet is particularly poignant after a slew of another type of rejections recently…

I’ve been meaning to write something about rejection for a while.  The thing is, I find this topic hard to talk about sometimes.  At this point in my writing career (stupidly early on, I must admit), I have been rejected more times than I can count.  While there seems to be quite a list developing on the writing page of this website, it took a lot of “no’s”to get there.  Even thought there have been more no’s than yeses and you’d think I would be used to rejection at this point, I’m not.  It still stings.

The past few weeks I have felt like that soda can, crushed over and over again by the shoe of rejection.

This afternoon, as a matter of fact, I was slogging around the house wallowing in the uncertainty that many of my most recent no’s have gotten me.  The last few no’s have hurt.  I’d like to be more writerly and use a word like stung which has a nicer ring to it here, but the reality is that they hurt.  It didn’t feel like I was stung by a bee, it felt like I was hit by bus.  No, like I was hit by a train.  Grad school rejections completely and totally crush you.  On my way to school today I saw a man picking up garbage on the side of the street.  He carefully put stray papers and candy bar wrappers in his bag, but when he came to a soda can deposited in the yellowing grass by the sidewalk, he placed it firmly on the cement before crushing it under his foot.  The past few weeks I have felt like that soda can, crushed over and over again by the shoe of rejection (that doesn’t quite sound right, but you get the point).

Last Friday, I was rejected not once, not twice, but three times by different literary magazines and for different creative pieces.  Three times in one day.  I set my own record.  The week before that I didn’t get into Minnesota State University, and a few weeks before that I didn’t get into Colorado State University.  Then, during a horrendous bout of the stomach flu, I was accepted to Memorial University but with no funding making it virtually impossible for me to attend.  A bittersweet acceptance, I guess we can call that one.

I don’t mean to throw myself a nice little pity party.  I mean to let you know that I am all too familiar with rejection.  It seems like in life in general, I have been rejected more than I have been accepted (this is probably an exaggeration, but I am going to roll with it).

I’m not giving up.

Despite the immense amount of crushing rejection I’ve been faced with the past few weeks, I’m not giving up.  After that terrible soda can metaphor, maybe I should, but I’m not.  Writing is what I want to do.  Rejection is part of the deal.  It’s a pretty crummy, soul sucking package deal that I’ve got, but it takes rejections like these to slowly build up that writing page.  It takes bad news to know how great an acceptance is when it comes.  It takes a heck of a lot of no’s to get a yes, but when that yes finally shows up it’s really, really worth it.

So yes, I was in tears this afternoon wondering if I’m good enough to every get a real yes. I can’t answer that question for myself (I think I’m great, I’m a little biased), but I can keep going.  I can keep trying until I get a yes – hopefully one after the other.  In a year, my goal is to be swimming in yeses.  For now, though, I’ll take that piece I just got a no on and submit it somewhere new, all the while crossing my fingers for that next grad school notification.

On Applying to MFA Programs

Something I discovered junior year was that graduate programs in creative writing exist.  At my current university, there isn’t even a graduate program in English, and no undergraduate major in creative writing at all, only a minor.  This has never been particularly bothersome to me, but I think that because of this, the idea of studying creative writing at the graduate level never really crossed my mind.  I discovered, though, that there are MFA programs in creative writing all across the country, that my current creative writing professors have almost all graduated from one such program, and that a lot of these programs allow students to work with incredibly talented writers while fully funding their students.  I guess you could say that after a bit of looking into MFA programs my thoughts were something along the lines of: mind blown.

Now that I am in my senior year and set to graduate in May, I have been deciding where I want to apply, what my personal statement should say, what pieces of writing I should use as my samples, who to ask for letters of recommendation, where I would actually want to live for the next two or three years, how hard (or easy) it will be to get into different programs, which faculty I would like to work with, and so many other things.  In addition to how time consuming it is to apply to different MFA programs, it is also expensive given the application fees that are required.  It also costs money to send transcripts to each school, and requires me to ask an incredibly big favor of three or four of my instructors so that I have great recommendations.  It’s all a bit overwhelming, to say the least.

While it is a bit much to handle at times, it is also incredibly exciting.  The prospect of going to school for the next several years studying just creative writing and potentially teaching it, or some other sort of English course, while doing so and being surrounded by a community of other writers – some, I’m sure, very well known and some who have never published before, is such an amazing prospect.  I have come to really love and appreciate the academic world of literature and creative writing during my undergraduate years, and I absolutely adore the idea of staying immersed in this world a bit longer – and potentially for a long time afterwards if I teach.

I spoke with one of my instructors yesterday about the prospect and she had a lot of advice for me.  Daunting advice, to be sure, but such useful advice coming from someone who has been where I am before and actually gotten in to one of these MFA programs.  I’m now going to apply to more programs than I was first considering applying to.  I am now going to try almost exclusively for MFA programs rather than MA programs, since she explained that to teach creative writing, an MFA is almost crucial.  She gave me a lot to thing about, but I am still so excited.  I am ready to really get underway with my applications and to start this journey of writing after graduation – whatever that entails.