Fail better – on embracing rejection

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.  – Samuel Beckett

The other day I got a nice email from One Story.  OK, so it was a rejection, but it was a nice rejection.  It said, “Thank you for sending us your story. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for One Story.  We hope that you will continue to send us your work.”

Several years ago, when I first started submitting my work and the rejection letters began rolling in, I would have spent useless hours trying to interpret the message behind every word in that email.  Did they really enjoy the piece, or did they say that to everyone?  What do they mean not right for One Story?  Not good enough?  Too short? Too long?  Wrong subject matter?  And did they really mean it when they said that they hope I’ll continue to send them my work?  Or was that a polite brush-off, the kind we southern girls are adept at by the time we start kindergarten?

Thankfully, I no longer try to read between the lines of a rejection.  It is what it is.  That particular journal doesn’t want my story, so it’s time to send it on out to someone who might.  Which is exactly what I did.

Every writer has been rejected.  It’s a fact of the writing life.  There are just too many variables involved:  the number of submissions a journal receives, the reader’s hangover, the fact that there are already three pieces about flying squirrels slated for the next issue.  Much has been written about rejection, so I won’t go on and on about it.  I’ll just tell you my personal philosophy, and you can decide whether or not to take it to heart.

Rejection letters (or emails) are badges of honor.  They are tangible proof that I am working at writing, that I am trying.

I know fabulous writers who’ve never had anything published, nor are they likely to, because they rarely submit.  They’re afraid of failure, afraid of being rejected.  I embrace my failures.  I try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.  Until eventually I succeed.

Two days after that email from One Story, I got a lovely one from Prime Number Magazine about a piece of flash fiction I had submitted.  “Thank you for sending us ‘Mating Habits of the Carolina Wren.’ We love it and would like to publish it in the next update of Prime Number.”  That’s an email I never would have gotten if I hadn’t been willing to open myself up to rejection.  So whatever it is you want to do:  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.  One day you might just succeed.

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2 thoughts on “Fail better – on embracing rejection

  1. Awesome! I love this post. And, if I ever finish this final re-write, I think I will post this post on my wall to help motivate me to keep sending out my work.

    1. You will finish – I have total faith in you. Can’t wait to read it.

      And just one other thought about rejection. I don’t mean to say I don’t get bummed when I get rejected, only that I let myself be bummed for only a short while, then I focus on getting it back out. Wish I could say it never bothers me at all, but of course that would be BS.

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