Embracing Rejection -- Part Two

Embracing Rejection -- Part Two

Don't become a victim of your own success. But be sure you know what "success" actually is!

After a long spell in which I submitted nothing (see part one of this discussion), I began sending off my writing again. And almost immediately, I found an editor who wanted not one, but two of my poems. And the publication paid in actual dollars, not just copies!

And what does an author do when he or she finds this kind of success? Naturally, I questioned my judgment. Clearly I had aimed too low. Clearly there were greater things in store for me, and I only needed to reach for the stars. My biggest risk, I thought, is that I would sell my genius too cheaply. My work would appear in journals that were lesser lights in the literary universe, and these were not poems that belonged under a bushel basket in some university library.

And so, for a long while after that, I submitted only to the kinds of journals that I had once imagined beyond my reach, but was now certain were within my grasp. And as a result, I didn't publish anything else for a long time.

When I got published by another journal, I was much more grateful. And this allowed my success to sustain me instead of eat at me.

It has also meant that I became much more careful about where I submitted my work. I have in mind a hierarchy of journals (you should, too). And I tend to send the poems I think are my best to those journals first. That way, they get their shot before I entertain other possibilities. And I don't entertain any journal in which I wouldn't be proud to find my poetry.

But this approach has also meant that I have had to come to terms with rejection. Because now I know myself better. I have thin skin, so I don't like rejection. But I also don't want a success that doesn't matter. And that means that I have to be clear about what matters. To me. The money didn't matter, but being considered alongside poetry I admired--and then having my work find a home there--that mattered. And if achieving that success requires me to brace myself for rejection, then I brace myself. It's part of the deal.

Each of us needs to define what is meaningful to us. For me, that means being tested against journals with some standing in the literary community. For you, it likely means something else. But if you don't know what you are aiming for, you are just shooting in the dark.