I got my first rejection email today! I know this shouldn’t be cause for celebration, but still, somehow, it is. Because it’s the first time I actually allowed myself to send out one of my stories for publication. Which is a very big deal.
I have this belief that I will need a certain number of rejections before I actually get something accepted. It’s not because I’m being cynical or not believing in myself. I think it has something to do with practically every author recounting their many rejection slips. Stephen King started submitting stories as a kid and he put them all on one nail on a wall and let them build, for years. A recent published author in Glimmertrain said that it had only taken her 10 years to get a story published in that literary magazine. This makes me think that I better get on it, if it’s going to take ten years.
But what is more interesting to me right now is that the email contained a message. It said that though my story wasn’t the right fit, they “were impressed by my writing” and hope that I feel “encouraged by this short note” to send them more work. I glided right past this on my first read of the email, shrugged it off.
What I find interesting is that a year ago, these words would have me turning cartwheels. When I first started out, a few years back, all I wanted from my writing class was one word of encouragement. I wanted someone to tell me, yes, I have what it takes. I wanted someone to say that a story was worth publishing. Just one “wow” was all I was searching for.
About three or four classes in, I got my first “wow”. But I shrugged, because by then, I wanted more. I wanted perfection, publishing, to be the best.
Last class, my professor told me a story was ready to be published. I was satisfied, as I felt I had done my job. But I wasn’t elated, like I would have been if a professor had told me this in my first year. It took me a few weeks, to remember this, and then I truly felt pride that I had accomplished one of my goals. I had worked hard, and improved. I was getting better.
I don’t think this is a bad thing, to constantly be wanting more, to want to be better. And yet, sometimes I think we get so caught up in next, that we forget how great now is. Next will come. But today, I am looking back on where I started, at how little I knew and how much I wanted. And I am celebrating the steps I’ve taken, the small moments I’ve achieved.
So a rejection letter is great. It means I’m out there, it means I’m on my way.