It’s hard being a writer. Admittedly there are more demanding jobs, like being a nurse – or any other proper job that involes being somewhere and doing something – but there’s no security in this game. Just when you’re patting yourself on the back for crafting a particularly exquisite sentence (come on, we all do it) and your own genius spins before you like a bibulous Lord, something happens to cloud your day.
You open your inbox. Your eyes focus absentmindedly, and yep, uh-oh, it doesn’t look like good news. You thought just because you’re a published writer, you’re immune. It’s a rejection. Remember those?
That poem you sent to such and such three months ago (so long ago you’d actually forgotten about it) now bounces back with a form rejection. Your eyes narrow and you take a closer look. You cringe. Did I really send one of my favourite literary mags that pile of shit? Sweet Jesus. Yes, your embarrassed inner voice shouts, you did.
For a fleeting second you’re almost tempted to write the journal a letter of apology and say you hope they won’t hold it against you in future. You don’t, of course. You’re not mad. Yet. (This is also where a pre-emptive pseudonym comes in handy).
I could say rejection has always scared and paralysed me. Perhaps it has for some people, and that’s a shame, but my attitude to rejection has never really changed: I shrug it off. If it’s for a piece of writing I’m proud of – something I’ve taken a lot of care over – I’m sad. I can’t help it. I know it’s part of a writer’s lot, but it hurts.
But it doesn’t sting for long. There’s so much more to do and improve and tomorrow could be another story. A story with a letter of acceptance. It has been known.