I think that if there is something in my life that has rung true over the years it is exactly that. The way to acceptance is through rejection. It seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it? But I have found this to be the case time and time again.
You can look at it from many different angles. Unfortunately for us all, in life, there are many forms of rejection. There are job rejections, love rejections, school rejections, friendship rejections, apartment application rejections, driver’s permit rejections, you name it. As writers and creatives, we are uniquely suited to being rejected even more than the average human. It’s an encouraging thing, right?
You might be thinking that the answer to that is “wrong,” but I beg to differ. Rejections are hard. They are so, so hard, and when rejections keep stomping on you one after another, after another, it’s easy to let each stomp push you down further and further, but I’ve finally come to a point in my life where I can re-frame how I view rejection when it inevitably comes around. It’s still painful being rejected, and that re-framing process is painstaking and brings up all sorts of old buried thoughts and emotions, but it’s worth it.
Each rejection – each blaring no that seems to outweigh even the most resounding of yeses, is a turn in your path that will ultimately lead you to the person you are meant to become. With writing in particular, each no from a literary journal means that your piece is one step closer to finding the yes that the writing deserves. You don’t want your piece to show up in a journal that won’t tout it to the ends of the Earth because it wasn’t quite the right fit, but it got a yes to meet a page count. Similarly, you do yourself a disservice by publishing a piece that still needs work – the fine tuning and re-assessing that happens during the final stages of the writing process are where words on the page really start to come to life.
I have experienced an exorbitant amount of rejection in my own life (you can read more about that here) involving everything from grad school applications, to jobs, to freelance work, to a story that is still one of my absolute favorites that I’ve ever written but has been rejected by close to thirty literary magazines at this point. Rejection is part of life, and to take a leap of faith by clicking “submit” or showing up for that interview means that you could hear a yes or you could hear a no, but either way you are hearing something great (trust me, I don’t even believe it half the time) because whatever the answer, it helps illuminate your next step.
One of the hardest rejections I ever got was for my current job (yes, I, and all of the other borrowed solace editors all have day jobs – this journal doesn’t pay the bills but it feeds our collective creative spirits). I didn’t get my job the first time around. I had two rounds of in person interviews (which are incredibly nerve-wracking for even the most seasoned interviewer) plus a phone interview and then got a call where all I got to hear was a big fat no. I was devastated having already played out a scenario in my mind of future me in my fancy new job, but that initial no gave me some time to evaluate what it was that I really wanted. So when that yes finally came through – out of the blue, and more than a month after that first no – I knew that this was where I was supposed to be.
So maybe you are getting a lot of no’s right now – putting yourself out there only to be rejected time and time again – but don’t give up. It takes a lot of no’s to get to that one yes that really matters, and it’s only after learning who we really are through the process of being rejected that we are actually ready for the yes. And when it comes, it will be a big, resounding yes – even if it seemingly drops right out of the bright blue sky.