I've been rejected plenty. USC film school twice. Countless creative directors who didn't think I'd make a good copywriter. And 167 publications since 2013 who didn't buy the short story I tried to sell them.
Lest you misinterpret, I'm not asking for pity. Everybody gets rejected. I'm just laying out my credentials to discuss the subject. In this case, what having my work (a short story) rejected by an editor (of a magazine or website) feels like. More importantly, what to do about it.
Sometimes a rejection sneaks up on you. You're sipping coffee with your wife on a nice Sunday morning and then like magic, a turd appears in your inbox. Sometimes even two or even three in a day. Those days suck. Doesn't matter how great your day is going before that, it bothers you for the rest of the day. Kind of like when you get a little dookie on your finger and no matter how many times you wash it, the stink lingers, wafting in over whatever else you're trying to smell.
The thing is, I know better. Really I do. It's not personal, sometimes it's not a good fit, or oops, that publication just bought a story about moon zombies. That's not so say that some of them don't feel like a kick right in the taint.
Example: I submitted a piece to REDACTED. After I submitted, I waited patiently for a response. And waited. And waited. And waited. The thing is, REDACTED is a popular pub, so they have long response times. But after 200 plus days, I queried. (That's code for "did you lose my story?") A month later an email informed me that if they'd been interested, they would have responded. (That's code for "eat shit.")
And with a rejection like that you just take it and move on. Nothing to learn there.
But, sometimes editors are kind enough to tell you why they didn't buy your story. Sounds great, right? Especially to someone who wants to improve. (I do.) As they say at the Procter and the Gambles, feedback is a gift. The thing is, my ego doesn't like gifts.
Case in point? I got just such a rejection this week. The good folks at Metaporhosis are kind enough to tell you both when they decided not to buy your piece and why they didn't want it. From a neutral point of view, it's awesome. Really awesome. Except, the first thing I want to do is disagree with them.
Johnny Cash with his middle finger in the air comes to mind. But instead of firing the piece off to somewhere else immediately, I decided to let the rejection sit a few days. To mull it over. And then I sat down with the story (written almost 3 years ago) and their feedback. Lo and behold, they had a point. Some really good points. So I got out my pencil and made some changes. When I was done, the story was better. And, I felt better about the rejection.
Now, I didn't write this to be all "look at how I take feedback so well." Because deep down, I don't. I have to make myself listen. Every time somebody picks at one of my ideas or stories or tells me a sentence is "klunky" I kind of want to poop in my hand and throw it at them. Only thousands of years of evolution and a the fact that sometimes they're kind of right stop me from doing just that.
So to all the recently rejected out there, take heart. You're not the only one whose best wasn't good enough. Just don't let it stay that way.