Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's not you, ever

I'm saying this as a writer with over three dozen published short stories, and as a one-time contest judge: it's never you. Ever.

Why do I say this? Because it's no skin off anyone's teeth to write a polite rejection slip. Going all Simon Cowell on someone takes more time than firing off an e-mail that says, "We're sorry, but your submission doesn't meet our needs at the moment."

On the writer side, you must accept the rejection with good grace, even if it isn't very gracious. Do not write back to ask what they mean by your submission not meeting their needs at the moment. Scratch that one off, and move on.

It's possible that one is just a sucky writer, because the problem with writing is that there are multitudinous ways in which to suck. You can have poor sentence structure, poor story structure, poor plot, poor characters, even one crappy character is all it takes. The story might really suck, too, even if other things you write are just fine. The thing about this, though, is that every single one of us has sucked at some point, on some project, somewhere. It's just that, if you're lucky, the sucky stuff gets rejected. You go back, you refine, rewrite, or start something else, and eventually, if you get all of the pieces working together, you'll live to be accepted another day.

There's also such a thing as sucky editors, as well as editors in bad moods or editors having off days. Some editors genuinely do not know what they're doing, having been promoted to their position of incompetence. Others had to take their dog in to be put down the night before, and are still grabbing for the tissues from time to time. Others went in to work with colds when they should have stayed home in bed.

So it isn't just that you cannot take rejection personally, it helps to have a certain amount of compassion for the person rejecting you. This is true even if it's someone who does a Cowell. (Thank you, Helen, for implanting that metaphor in my head!) You can offer a small request to the Divine for whatever ailment they are suffering to be relieved...

...and then you scratch that market off your list and move on.

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