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 Writing After College

Or, alternatively, things I wish someone would have told me.

You will most likely forget to write.  I know it seems impossible while you are in college immersed in writing everything from research papers to your weekly calendar, but you eventually it will slip your mind.

Sure, you will still write, but it won’t be the type of writing you have waited your whole life to do.  Your head will become so full of work lingo, so focused on the drama of the break room dishes, that writing another email is all you can manage to do during the day.  And yet, there will always be more emails.

You probably won’t have friends.  At least, not in the way you have friends now while enrolled in school.  Friends are friends – they stick by you no matter what.  This doesn’t change.  But your friends will stick by you via text or the occasional coffee run, not through late night study sessions or weekend hang outs.  You may go months without speaking, and then suddenly you are messaging them about their new kid, their engagement ring, or how they are hoping to go to grad school once they are no longer too broke to breathe.  This isn’t a bad thing – you will pick up where you left off each time and it will be as if no time has passed at all.  But life goes on, and time does pass, and each day the sun moves through the sky like you move through the many seasons of One Tree Hill on Hulu.

Your will to try will diminish, then come roaring back when a fresh match sparks your fire, only to be blown out again.  You will come to realize that your day is made up of the same mundane things and that nothing really changes.  Sleep will become a prized luxury that merely fuels you up to go search for your will to try for eight hours every day.  You most likely will not find it, but the trying is what truly tests your character.

You might come to relate to your parents more than you relate to college students.  You will work at a college because you think that it is where fostering of the mind occurs, where all great writing and reading takes place, but you will quickly realize there is more to life than school.  You may feel old.  You are not, but the aching of your shoulders from your bad posture everyday and the creak of your back from your insistence on sticking to an exercise routine will make you feel like you are at retirement age.  Your 401K will say otherwise.

You could start a blog.  Let’s be honest, you probably will, but writing it will become so tedious that you will instead blindly submit your short stories and poems to any literary journal that does not charge a reading fee.  And you will not write as much new material as you wish you could.  As you wish you did.  As you wish you were.

You may get stuck, wondering how to start writing the millions of ideas you have in your head.  You probably stopped writing in the little notebook your creative writing professor insisted upon you having to record the everyday magic around you.  You notice the magic, but it is fleeting.  Your ideas swim in the dank abyss of your mind instead.

You may experience all of these things, but remember that you are still the same person who was excited about graduation.  Deep down inside of your body that has become merely a series of inter-working gears that pull you up out of bed in the morning, there is a soft spot that still feels.  Do not lose that spot, protect it with the glasses, sensible shoes, business casual wardrobe, and low maintenance hairstyle that keep you sane day in and day out.

Remember the magnificent in the mundane.