How do you deal with rejection?
I like rejection. I’ve taught myself to enjoy it, and you should too. Basically, rejection tells me I’m meeting my submission goals. To explain: when I was a very young writer starting out I heard a famous poet say he had a 10% acceptance rate from literary magazines. This seemed shockingly low, but it was encouraging. I figured I must have a rate, too, and guessed it was 1%. I realized that if I sent out 100 submissions I’d get published somewhere. So I started. Turns out, my acceptance rate was much higher. I saw getting published as just a numbers game, and have ever since.
A birth coach will tell a mother in labor—that last contraction is one you won’t have to experience ever again, each contraction brings you nearer the birth of the baby. Rejection is like a labor contraction—painful, but things are moving along.
I’ve read enough slush—unsolicited submissions—to know that most editors are just making a choice, their choice, which of course is their prerogative. Acceptances aren’t based on Platonic ideals—they are based on one person’s taste, or at most the decision of a few people.
A few years ago, my acceptance rate skyrocketed. My sister Susannah, who does a lot of coaching, said: “That’s a bad sign. You aren’t aiming high enough.” She was right. I set my sights higher and dropped back down to my usual rejection rate. (Which I try to keep at 90% these days—that is, 10% acceptance).
I also take an Indie approach. I’ve run so many magazines, e-zines, blogs, and presses that I don’t feel trapped in a world of other peoples’ standards. I’ve spent much of my life in literary collectives, artistic collaborations, and community groups. That support—and audience—counters the sting of rejection on the days I get irritated by the whole business.