#ShareYourRejection: I Received 330 Writing Rejections in One Year, and I’m So Happy About It

August 17, 2018 § 16 Comments

jay vera summerBy Jay Vera Summer

When I first began submitting to online literary magazines seven years ago, I had no idea how the process worked. I felt nervous and intimidated, and it took all of my courage to send something out. I’d submit to one publication, wait, think about the submission literally every day, and then feel dejected and possibly cry when I received a rejection weeks or months later.

Each time I saw a rejection in my inbox, I took it personally. I’d wonder if my writing was trash, if I should give up writing completely. It’d take me a few weeks to rebuild my confidence, then start the process all over, submitting my story or essay to another lit mag, then waiting. If three lit mags rejected something, I abandoned it, figuring the editors knew better than I did.

As some of you have probably guessed, I didn’t get anything published this way.

Later, I met published writers through writing workshops and eventually, an MFA program. Initially, I was surprised to hear people I admired and considered successful talk about their rejections. When a woman who’d won a Pushcart Prize told me she always sent out her pieces until they were either accepted or rejected at least fifty times, I realized I needed  to adjust my perspective on my own work and not give up so easily.

In the world of writing, rejection is not failure. It is a necessary part of professional growth and the road to publication. Although at first I still felt the raw sting of each rejection, I began to submit more widely and frequently after learning many accomplished writers viewed their rejections with pride. I tried to mimic them and take my rejection letters as a badge of honor, an initiation of sorts. Instead of taking a rejection as proof I’m not good enough, I decided my ability to withstand rejection was proof that the label “writer” truly belongs to me.

After becoming a literary magazine editor myself (of Saw Palm, weirderary, and now, Chronically Lit), I learned first-hand that lit mags editors often reject work they consider good. Sometimes a piece is high-quality, but doesn’t fit the aesthetic or theme of that particular issue or publication. Sometimes one editor really wants a piece, but another overrules them. Sometimes everyone at a lit mag likes a piece, but they decide it’s too similar to something else they’ve already accepted.

The bottom line is, a rejection isn’t necessarily a value judgment of the work in question, even if it feels like it.

Last year, I decided to get over my fear of rejection once and for all. I was graduating with my MFA and realized I had over a dozen short pieces I liked from my three years in the program. I began a big push, submitting these pieces widely, determined not to stop until each piece had either been accepted, or rejected at least fifty times. I submitted pieces to multiple outlets simultaneously (but only to publications I’d read and knew were appropriate, of course–submitting to publications that aren’t a good fit is a waste of both writers’ and editors’ time).

During this year of intense submitting, I received twelve acceptances. To earn those twelve acceptances, I had to sustain 330 rejections. Yes, three-hundred-thirty. That’s roughly 28 rejections for each acceptance, almost one rejection a day for an entire year. And I am so happy about it. I’m not only happy because of the acceptances, though of course, that feels nice. I’m happy because I finally understand and can handle the process. I finally believe in my work.

If the timid, insecure writer I was seven years ago could see me now, she would be so proud.

Jay Vera Summer is a writer and college writing instructor living in Florida. Her work may be found in The Hawai’i Review, The Conium Review, Proximity, Luna Luna Magazine, and more. She is Editor in Chief of the online literary magazine Chronically Lit. Find her at jayverasummer.com or @jayverasummer on twitter.


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§ 16 Responses to #ShareYourRejection: I Received 330 Writing Rejections in One Year, and I’m So Happy About It

  • […] However often do you fail to do something (try, complete, or submit) because you fear failures or rejection.  This piece shows if you don’t get back up, you’ll never get anywhere.   via #ShareYourRejection: I Received 330 Writing Rejections in One Year, and I’m So Happy About It […]

  • equipsblog says:

    I’m going to take your advice. I finally submitted my first pieces to a regional writing contest. Baby steps. Now to finally submit something to be published.

  • ccbarr says:

    Online publications? I thought they were far and few bettween.

  • Kimber says:

    I’ve been doing baby steps – watching for themed calls for submissions I get through email and on Duotrope, so that I know I am writing to a requested need. The funny thing I am finding out about me is that I love the writing part, don’t love but get through the editing part and Love that feeling once I click the submit button. Click and it’s on its way. At that point in my head, I am done. I can move on to the next thing at that point. I don’t know how this came to pass because I used to be the worrier.

  • truly an inspiring piece… keep going …believe what you do has values…thank you.

  • I once won a grant for a story that had already been rejected 30 times. A dozen more rejections and Calyx took that story—a journal I greatly admired but was afraid to submit to. It just goes to show.

  • Yes, this is the right attitude! Attitude is everything. It’s often NOT about the quality of your work, rather that the piece is not a good fit. Excellent advice!

  • […] post is titled, “#ShareYourRejection: I Received 330 Writing Rejections in One Year, and I’m So Happy About It,” and I’d be honored if you read it. I found out the Brevity blog has 45,000 email […]

  • 1WriteWay says:

    I should tape this to my wall: “I decided my ability to withstand rejection was proof that the label “writer” truly belongs to me.” Thanks for an excellent and encouraging post.

  • ninagaby says:

    I still burst into tears every so often.

  • Thanks for this. Now I look forward to being supremely rejected.

  • Laura V. says:

    Such great encouragement to keep at it even when it’s frustrating. Thanks for writing this, Jay!

  • ninagrandiose says:

    A very helpful piece and truly encouraging. However, most submissions have a fee. How can we afford those fees 330 times or more?

  • […] memory of things I do. I figure, if I put a lot of effort into something, whether that’s submitting to lit mags, paying down debt, developing healthy habits, or creating lesson plans for my students, why not […]

  • I view each rejection as a “NO,” and each one is one step closer to the “YES” a am walking towards on this pathway. Last year I received 12 rejections when I sent out my first chapbook. One editor told me that it was eliminated in the next to last round – of the 350 chapbooks that they were reviewing. This was a little glimmer of hope that my chapbook had some worth. Last week, one year after I began sending my chapbook out to editors. I received the “YES” and my little chapbook, _first snow_ will be printed this year by a fine publisher that I am proud to say will be publishing it. I think of this as a “baker’s dozen.” A dozen rejections then the bonus of the “YES” that turned it around.

  • Reblogged this on SCAN-a-BLOG and commented:
    Rejections. We need them.
    This is an excellent article that will give a good perspective on the value of rejections for our writing submissions. I view each rejection as a “NO” and I understand that each “NO” brings me one step closer to the “YES” I am aiming for.

    Step out there and send your work out to the appropriate publications and see where you are after an entire year of sending work out. Rejections are valuable to us – they bring us the publications we want if we keep on putting out our worik.

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