Life After the MFA: How to Deal with Rejection

The worst thing a writer can receive in the mail is the self-addressed stamped envelope.  The SASE?  Remember that thing?  You put it in the envelope along with that manuscript or that short story.  You hoped you’d never get it back.  But, six weeks later, there it is.  You know it because that’s your handwriting.  Or, that’s the mailing label you use.  You don’t even open it.  You feel it.  Rejection letters are thin.  And, yep, this one is thin.  Agents and editors don’t send letters.  They call you or email you. Letters are for the failed.  You just toss the thing into the trashcan.  Then you dig it out because, maybe, it could be something good.  But you open it and, yep, it is the rejection.  Thank you for sending us your manuscript.  We are sorry but it doesn’t fit our needs at this time.  Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.  Some literary journals even put ads, yes ads, in their rejection letters, asking you to buy their next issues.  You know, those issues full of the writing that wasn’t rejected.  It is a lot like some one pushing you down, then asking you to watch them laugh at you.  It is like eating a hamburger in front of a starving man.  It’s like watching your ex-lover have sex with someone else.  Yep, it is exactly like that.

What about those rejection emails?  Pretty cool, huh?  Instant information because of the wonders of the Internet!  You have to check your email.  You have to.  You can’t help it.  And there is always the possibility that you don’t get rejected.  This email is the one!  They will ask for the full manuscript! They’ll love the full manuscript.  They’ll ask which publisher you want.  Random House, yes please!  Then you’ll get the email from the bank, saying the advance was directly deposited into my direct deposit.  And the email from UPS just popped in, saying that the books are on their way.  Amazon just emailed that your book has sold out.  And then you get to email your mom, telling her that your book has made the New York Times Best Sellers list, for the Tenth week in a row.  Thank you, Al Gore!  Praise God for email! It will save everything about us! You open the email!

Thank you for blah, blah, blah.  We regret that blah, blah, blah.  Best of luck!

Rejection is an occupational hazard of writing.  There is nothing we can do about it.  If Agents represented everything and if Editors accepted everything, we would have libraries full of god-awful books and no one would think that writing amazing books was hard or important.  All writers have to accept their share of rejections.  But fuck if we have to like it.

The rejection isn’t the problem.  It is the way the writers are rejected.  Agents and Editors should drive to our houses and punch us in the face when they hate our work.  Or kicks us in the neck.  We would write better, give up, or learn to kick box.  Either way, they are all bold moves forward.


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