Writing Through the Disappointment
A “No” Could Become a “Yes” When You Try Again
When I actively pursued a career as a poet, I was a novice when it came to submitting to journals and magazines. I broke the number one rule of every publication — read a few issues to get a sense of the journal or magazine’s aesthetic. Impatient to see my name in print, I just sent work to every open publication. I didn't do my due diligence and research the publication. During my first couple of years as a professional poet, that was a lesson I had to learn again and again.
The rejections came as fast as a Fast and Furious movie. Some of them came within hours after I submitted the poem. Some took a few days. Most publications let me know within a couple of months. Regardless of when the rejections came, the point is they came and acceptances were few and far between.
Like I stated earlier, I didn’t do my research and assumed, wrongly, that my poems weren’t good. I adopted a negative mindset. Sometimes, it would take me months before sending out new work. Finally, after reading various articles about submitting to publications, I finally realized that I needed to study them.
To be honest, ego played a huge role in my submissions process. After sharing my work online and with friends, I had let their praise go to my head. In addition, I had been writing poetry since I was a young girl and had my first publication in my high school’s literary magazine. As an adult, I simply let my ego drive my actions, believing that my work was the shit.
My work wasn’t the shit — it was shitty. Not that all of my poems were terrible, they simply weren’t ready for publication. I hadn’t done my research, didn’t know enough about poetic craft, and my poems were drafts instead of polished pieces. I knew what had to be done. In order to increase my acceptance rate, I needed to do the hard work of learning how to be a poet.
So I began attending classes, reading the works of my favorite poets, and learning new poetry writing techniques. I began researching a publication before submitting my poems. I examined the type of poems the publication accepted and if there were any commonalities amongst the poems. I would revise then submit my poems to the publication.
Slowly, the disappointment of rejection began to diminish. While some notifications were flat rejections, I began to notice editors asking me to submit new work in the future. So my rejections became full fledge letters. We like what we saw it’s just not the right fit for this issue. And my acceptance rate increased dramatically. In one year, I went from five acceptances to twenty.
Disappointment is a part of life. In the writing world, it can be a bitter pill. It’s hard to keep going when your work, which is an extension of you, is rejected. Yet, the disappointment shouldn’t stop you from moving forward. Take each rejection as a lesson. Learn from it and develop your work. Read poetry. Practice craft. Follow poets that you admire. Perseverance is the key to success.