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Rejection Rules


As I survey my Submittable Submissions page, I count two (two!) acceptances, separated by a distance of four years. I count thirty-one rejections, separated by considerably less. True, this is not the whole picture: while Submittable is an excellent and increasingly ubiquitous tool for sending and tracking submissions online, I don’t use it exclusively; there have been a handful of other acceptances, and many, many other rejections. Rejection as an inescapable fact of the writing life is, of course, nothing new. Much has been said on the subject, and there are many fine resources to advise aspiring writers on how to increase their odds of acceptance. I am, quite truthfully, a dilettante, with a checkered paper trail of many, many rejections, so this is not that.

‘I won’t pretend that acceptance doesn’t feel better than rejection.’ Illustration by Josh Quick

In light of these rejections, I reflect—again, as this is a topic upon which I’ve had many occasions to reflect—that my life has been very rejection-based. And, in so reflecting, I reflect—again—that I’m grateful for this. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not going to pretend that it’s been fun, or that my ego hasn’t at times somewhat resembled the pulp of a plum dropped carelessly down an elevator shaft. But I like the end result. I’m not sure when, exactly, I realized that rejection rules. There wasn’t any one a-ha! moment. No earth-shattering epiphany in which I saw Edgar Allan Poe’s face in a tortilla and took heart in the fact that many of the true greats (in whose company I am admittedly not) were rejected in their own time. Rather, it was an accumulation of overheard statements, uttered across an ever-lengthening span of years, that got me to thinking about rejection and my relationship to it.    
Rejection ranks right up there among most people’s greatest fears. I’ve lost track of how many conversations I’ve had with aspiring writers who live in terror of the idea of sending their work out into the world for fear of being rejected. And isn’t the fear of public speaking, which people purportedly fear more than death, at its root the fear of rejection? Fear that our words will fall on deaf or hostile ears? That we might mess up, reveal ourselves and our works to be found wanting, and be summarily dismissed?
A wonderful thing happens when you are rejected repeatedly: the fear of rejection releases you from its thrall. You realize that rejection, this dread phenomenon that keeps so many of us from braving so many things, that keeps creative types from putting their labors of love out there, has only as much power over you as you let it. You come to realize that rejection can’t kill or even maim you. There’s a great deal to be said for having to assert your worth in the face of rejection: once you’ve sorted through the wreckage and separated the unsalvageable parts from those that that might be fixable, and both of these piles from those works you stand by no matter what anyone else says, not matter how many rejections they receive, you begin to trust your own judgment, to assert your own worth.
To assert your own worth in the absence of validation from the outside world is an invaluable undertaking. It’s what a lifetime of rejection—creative and personal—has forced me to do. As a result, my sense of my own worth and that of my work isn’t dependent on the affirmations of a publisher or another person. I won’t pretend that acceptance doesn’t feel better than rejection. Of course it does. I put my words out there in hope of finding an audience for them. But, to the chronically rejected who are able to dust themselves off and survey their damages, acceptance becomes more the icing on the cake than the meat on the bone. Dessert, as opposed to survival.
If I hadn’t braved thirty-three rejections in submitting my writing via Submittable, I never would have garnered those two acceptances. Maybe my batting average will improve, and I will someday write about how rejection was a crucial part of increasing my acceptance rate, and why. Then again, maybe not. Regardless, I am, and will remain, grateful for the lessons chronic rejection have taught me.
Note: The opinions expressed by guest bloggers at the Submittable blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Submittable.

Allison FloydAllison Floyd is a Schadenfreudian analyst living in her own private Idaho. Her work has appeared in The Lazy Fascist Review, The First Line, The Review Reviewthe Idaho Statesman, and Bitch Magazine, among others. She has work forthcoming in On Spec Magazine.

Allison Floyd