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Week 39 – Rejections

Some writers never send their stories or articles to magazines, nor do they query agents or editors about their book manuscripts. Why? They’re afraid of rejection. They keep their creations to themselves instead of taking a chance on getting published.

I surely don’t like rejections, but I’ve received close to 1800 of them for all the stories, articles, books and query letters I’ve sent out by snail mail and e-mail over the years. (It’s always a good idea to keep a record of who, where and when you send your work to.) At the beginning of my career, I took rejections personally and became despondent. It didn’t take me long to start treating them like junk mail or spam. Today I throw all snail mail rejections into our recycling box and quickly delete all e-mail rejections. I sit up straight at my desk, lift my head up high and get back in the race again.

Whenever a rejection comes my way, I always keep Isaac Asimov’s quote in mind: “You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success—but only if you persist.”

To prove Asimov’s point, I quote the up-and-coming writer Steve Almond: “I’m thinking of a story that I sent out for seven or eight years called ‘The Darkness Together.’ I knew it was a good story, and I sent it to forty places, and finally, finally, I think it was the second time I sent it to the Southern Review, they finally took it. And it won a Pushcart Prize, and I thought, ‘I have a list of forty magazines that had said no to it,’ some of them very small magazines. And it’s not like I rewrote the thing. I knew it was a solid story. So what do you do with that? You just have to develop calluses.”