My writing career has never been easy or straightforward. Writing as a career is a daunting task. As writers, the most common career hazard (if you could call it a “hazard”) isn’t burnout or writer’s block. No, the thing we deal with the most is rejection.
It haunts us. It’s always around the corner, waiting, ready to bring us down, to stop us in our tracks. For new writers, it can be especially daunting to be in a writing career. If we put too much into it, we might quit, never allowing ourselves the chance to fail until we get better and reach our creative zenith.
Rejections in Writing Career
In my years of a writing career, the submission game would perhaps be best described as hit-or-miss. Some days you make it, and a piece is accepted. Other times, it seems like all the darts miss the board completely. You keep throwing your work at the wall and hope something sticks.
When that happens, it’s pure euphoria. It feels so good when a publisher accepts your work. The feeling is indescribable. And after years of getting rejections (almost always delivered as a form letter that every single other rejected author receives when their work is passed on), you become desensitized. The depression you used to suffer no longer materializes. You move on.
I’ve gotten so used to rejection that now I shrug and carry on with whatever I was doing at the moment I checked an email from the magazine or contest I submitted a poem, story, or nonfiction article to. Whether I was getting dressed for the day, walking to work, or even just browsing social media – the rejections don’t bother me.
This only happens when you’ve been submitting for a long time. When you’re new, it is totally valid to have a sense of hurt. I certainly did. But you keep hacking away until that fateful day comes when you have your first successes. And it will happen.
One way writers get discouraged is in thinking all rejections are a critique of their skills. And while this may be true, it isn’t always. Most magazines have an extremely low acceptance rate. I read a statistic once for one of the bigger magazines, and if I remember right, it was .2%.
The reason for this has to do with volume. Magazines get thousands of submissions over the course of any given reading cycle (typically two or three per year). And with the limited space allotted in an issue, it makes total sense that the acceptance rates are so low. Publishing is a business, of course.
As a beginning writer, you will have more success with less renowned magazines, especially ones that don’t pay and/or don’t offer a print version. The costs are much lower, so there’s more freedom to publish up-and-coming writers.
Plus, with them being more underground, there isn’t a reputation to uphold. When you send work to a place like The New Yorker, you’re effectively competing against people like Susan Sontag, Anne Sexton, and Ernest Hemingway. But if the work is good, they will publish you.
If I sound cynical, I’m not trying to. I just find that looking at this with a more realistic attitude is beneficial. Also, never forget that sometimes a piece just isn’t an accurate fit for what the magazine publishes. A more experimental piece would probably not fit in a more literary publication. At the same time, if they like science-fiction, a horror story more than likely wouldn’t be a sure bet for acceptance.
But who knows. Maybe what you’re sending outfits. There can be a lot of room for overlap, especially if you’re skilled. Just read the rules and know the market. If anything, many places allow you to read examples of what they’ve accepted in the past. Go from there in your journey of a writing career.
This should about cover it. It’s a fun process, and ultimately, you can only get better the more you do a given activity. So keep ploughing, and one day you will see success. Don’t let rejections turn you away.
Stephanie Knarr recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA from the Harrisburg, PA area. Her writing appears in Harrisburg’s local magazine, The Burg, and her work will soon appear in Unwinnable and Five:2: One. Her favourite drink is RC Cola, and her favourite band is probably Animal Collective.