I got my second rejection from a literary magazine today. Yup, I’ve been rejected. As a creative writing major for the last four years, I probably should have been submitting work a long time ago, but I never did until two months ago. Unless you count the really short stories I wrote in elementary school that didn’t go into the school district wide story booklet thing, those two rejections are my first two. I’ve never been published, and I’ve never tried submitting before. At this point, you’re probably thinking, oh great, this is where Katey spends about 700-800 words complaining about two measly rejections. Let me reassure you right here that this isn’t what this is. I’ve worked on literary magazines before and have read through countless submissions in the slush pile, so I understand there can be various reasons for a magazine to not accept a submission, including, but not limited to, it’s just not a good story. So, this isn’t me complaining or harping on the magazines that didn’t accept my story. God, that is the last thing I want to do. This is merely me reflecting, and mostly for the benefit of my future self to one day go back and read this very article about my first two rejections at the very start of my writing career. Just to have something written down.
These first two rejections are something special, aren’t they? They aren’t special just because I received them, but because at one point, every writer has received their first two rejections. It kinda sucks. When I got my first one, I wasn’t even terribly bothered by it. I shrugged at the email, made a mental note that if I were to write another story, keep that literary magazine in mind to try again, and went back to eating my lunch. It felt sort of like I belonged to a club. My friend joked I was officially a writer after that. That was about a month and a half ago. I shoved my story and the five other literary magazines I had submitted to to the back of mind and continued on with life.
I got the second one today, at work, during break. It was kind of weird because five minutes before as I was eating reheated microwavable pizza for lunch, I realized that I had yet to hear from another magazine. It had only been two months since I had submitted, so it’s not like it was time to start stressing (most literary magazines have a response time of 4-6 months). But as soon as that second email came in when I started in on the second slice of pizza, I immediately thought “well, there’s the second rejection.”
It put a damper on the rest of the day. More so than the first one did, and I didn’t really understand why.
I drive the tram at the zoo, shepherding people from the front of the zoo to the back. It’s very monotonous, so I had a lot of time to think about this second rejection. A lot of time to think how dumb getting a creative writing degree probably was. A lot of time to rethink the story I submitted and decide that paragraph I added on the last round of edits was a bad idea I should go take it out right away but I couldn’t because it was already submitted other places. Amidst all this paranoia, I became very self aware of the fact that this was only the beginning.
It’s only the second in what will inevitably be many, many more rejections. Logically, I understand this. But in the moment, reading those emails is hard. It’s devastating. It’s disheartening. I tend to not like it when someone tries to tell me “hey, you know, Stephen King and JK Rowling got thousands of rejections before they were ever published! You’ll be fine!” That doesn’t make me feel any better, and I’d rather just go pout for the rest of the day, thank you very much.
All of this to say well, yeah, you’re going to get more rejections. It’s the nature of the gig. So, this is to my future self, someone who has probably received more rejections than I have, as a reminder of how the first two felt. They suck, and I imagine they still suck in the future, but hey, you’re still there, just like I’m still here, writing our little hearts out. The world didn’t end after the first two. It’s not going to later down the line either. Take each of them like you did the first one. Keep working. It’ll be fine.
Have you ever been rejected from something you were super excited about? Share your stories–and successes–at @TheMoshery!
Katey is a writer and film and television critic. She maintains Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie of the past decade, and definitely deserved Best Picture at the Oscars. Follow her on Twitter, where her Twitter bio says she live tweets her progress of “The X-Files,” but that hasn’t actually happened in a really long time. Follow her anyway. It’ll be a laugh, probably.