Dear Rejection Letters

March 26, 2021 § 6 Comments

By Lisa J. Wise, M.Ed.

Dear Rejection Letters,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my submissions. Writing has recently become my deepest passion as I pour my heart and soul into every word count. When you are a polite yet brief six-word “no” – screaming auto-reply form letter – it hurts. When you are a charming, personable, upbeat “no thanks!”, you offer hope. But when you are complimentary, speaking admiringly of my voice, inviting me to submit again, taking the time to personalize your message, you lift up my soul. The subtle encouragement of your gracious “thank you, no” makes me believe in my publishing dreams coming to fruition and validates the promise of good things to come to those who wait patiently by their inboxes (maybe). That is enough to keep me writing and submitting. 

I have been cautioned by the writing elders not to take any of your rejections personally. They preach that a spoonful of thick skin, strong ego and a dash of narcissism helps the dismissal go down. Acceptances are merely a matter of timing, personal taste, hitting the right tone and errant wizardry. But mining my most heartfelt memories for clutch material and using them as my creative tools makes it tough to shake off an editor’s hard pass (or seven). That does not stop me from persevering because writing for an audience is addictive. Once you have drunk from the fountain of publication and public praise, nothing can keep you from desperately returning for more. Seeing your words in print next to your own name is intoxicating. 

So please be kind, dear Rejection Letters, as you pile up with greater frequency. We will be seeing more of each other as I bravely put my voice out there. My goal in 2021 is to collect 100 of you as a testament that I have taken risks, put my words in the hands of others, trusted the process, and tried my best to get published. Accumulating as many ‘no thanks’ as I can handle is my celebration of that risk. Rejection paves the only path to that one treasured, golden ‘Yes please!’ While you collect in my inbox, I humbly offer my Writer’s Invocation over your stack: 

May you not diminish the fun of writing one iota. 
May you never make me question my passionate dream. 
May your glints of encouragement fuel my drive as I speak my truth. 
May your mounting tower act as a powerful reminder of how badly I want my voice heard.

Love, Lisa

***

Dear Lisa,

Thanks for reaching out. We noticed that you have been quite busy sending a slew of submissions and we appreciate your efforts. Sorry if our rejections are getting you down. It must be tough to keep hearing ‘no’. Your note sounds like you might be getting a tad dejected (some of us thought bitter). Kindly consider asking yourself these three questions before submitting any further: 

1. Who are you writing for, really? 

If it is because you need to write in the same way that you need to breathe, eat and sleep, then bravo and stick with it! If it is because you long for only that cloying ego stroke of external validation through publication, find another career. The ‘yeses’ are few, the hours are long, the pay is pitiful. Do this because your heart must be heard and your soul can do nothing else but speak. Fame is a sham.

2. What do you want to say, really?

Are you holding back? Perhaps submitting what you think we want to hear in the style you think we like to see? Are you changing your truest voice in an attempt to grab our attention? Stop doing that. Stay authentic and speak genuinely. Be clear about your own truths. Don’t alter your tone to suit anyone else’s view but your own. Trust your voice more and us a little less.

3, Why the rush, really?

You love writing. It brings you sheer joy every day. Why not bask in that and let the rest follow? Don’t chase what is not yet yours. Instead, enjoy the soothing company of your weathered journal, your favorite purple pen, your steaming mug warming that peaceful time of stillness. We see you perched contentedly at your cozy desk, scribbling away in the early morning light. Let that be enough for today. Who knows who will knock on the door at tea-time tomorrow? Leave out your grandmother’s best china cup and saucer alongside the sugar bowl and a hint of hope. Good things are coming your way (maybe). But either way, be sure to write today.

Love,
Your Rejection Letters

_____

Lisa J. Wise lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband of 30 years. The proud mom of 23-year-old fraternal twin sons, one of whom carries the diagnoses of Crouzon Syndrome and Hydrocephalous, their family has learned how to manage life with multiple complex chronic conditions. Born into a cancer-cluster family, Lisa navigated the palliative care journey with three of her immediate family members. Her experiences with illness guide her work of 22 years as a family and patient-centered healthcare specialist and as IWMF Vice Chair of Support coordinating global cancer support groups.  She has a Bachelor of Education from McGill University and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University. She has been recently published in the New York Times, The Boston Globe and New York Daily News. Find more of her work at lisajwise.com.


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§ 6 Responses to Dear Rejection Letters

  • Dear Lisa,
    You are an inspiration, you and your lofty goals. It’s taken me a few rears to reach 100 but that is also my goal for 2021. I’m well on my way and you remind me why I persist.

  • rachaelhanel says:

    Perseverance will get you to where you want to go! Many people will give up in the face of rejection. But when you know you have words worth sharing, you know your work will find a home. I’m at 72 rejections in the last six months, but I know my work will find a home!

  • Lisa, this was both funny and inspiring! Thank you!

  • lgrizzo says:

    Lisa, this came into my inbox the day after commiserating with another writer friend of the rejections that keep piling up. I needed this! Thank you.

  • Talking of rejection letters one of the most finely worded was from The Sun (US). It was so elegantly put it was almost a pleasure to read as it allowed no angst

  • Alice Lowe says:

    I didn’t start writing until after retirement, so I don’t view it as a career & don’t mind the hours or pay. Nevertheless I’m intensely serious about & committed to my writing. In the past ten years I’ve experienced both the disappointment of rejections – lots of them – & the thrill of many acceptances & seeing my work in print. Don’t underestimate that invigorating & fortifying “ego stroke of external validation through publication.”

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