Love letter :Dealing with Rejection

Yesterday, I opened my mail to see my first ever love letter- from an editor. A letter that told me in the nicest possible way that what I had written was not suitable for them. And when I say nicest, I really mean it. I doubt most editors would take the pains to say why someone’s work did not fit the bill, beyond a  ‘Sorry, but this sucks!’

For that, I am grateful.

You see, the last time I was told that my writing sucked big-time was when I was in high school, twenty years ago. Yes, that was eons ago. Do you remember the time you turned in an essay to your favourite teacher, waited patiently by for the praise to flow and were stung by the way she dismissed your hours of labour? ‘Too many fancy words’; ‘Writing as though you turned on a Thesaurus in your brain’; ‘Stop using such long sentences!’ were just a few of the choice ones that were flung at me that day.

Adolescence is bad enough to go through without having the teacher making it worse. So, I went through the gamut of an emotional upheaval- Anger, bitterness, grudging acceptance, slow realisation, determination to change and finally writing more precisely.
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It took me many years to look back at that episode as an important one in my academic and personal life. Had I not been told that, I would still be churning out rambling essays with no coherence of thought. This brings me back to the present and about how the Universe conspires to send you a message in the right manner.

How do you think I reacted when I saw that rejection letter? Was I upset or angry? I could have been, but instead I viewed it with dispassionate calm. This last week, I have been reading a book. A wonderful, motivating, raw and anecdotal book called ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul- Inspiration for Writers’. The book, by itself, deserves a separate review post, but there were a couple of quotes that stood out for me. I had taken a notepad and jotted them both down on Wednesday.

Many writers have trouble separating comments about their work from comments about them.

– Suzan Moyer

It would seem that writing is a solitary thing. One beating heart, full of words, full of passion, hunkered over a keyboard alone. But, writers need one another. For encouragement; for sharpening. For help and hope. After all, we’re on the same sweet ladder.

And, I’d be missing a crazy amount of blessing if I were climbing all alone.

-Shawnelle Eliasen

Here’s where it gets interesting. I wrote these down on Wednesday and I received the rejection on Thursday. There is no such thing as coincidence. There is a time for everything. So, I was faced with a choice:

A) Feel helpless and annoyed that my writing was not good enough and throw in the towel, vowing never to type another word again.

B) Look at the letter as a positive boost to my work. It wasn’t bad, but it could be better, if I chose to work on it.

Today, I choose (B). Only because the letter came to me at a time that I was willing to receive it.

In the last year, writing groups all over the Web have caught my eye. But, I have been terrified to join any of them. The truth? I dreaded the way that they would systematically rip apart my carefully scripted piece, pointing out a dangling modifier here or an overly ornate description there.

Today, after reading the book and the letter, my resolve is firm. I will take the plunge and enrol in a writer’s support group.

Will my ‘book’ ever see publishing daylight? I don’t know and at this point, I won’t worry about it.

The other more important question is, ‘Am I ready to grow as a writer? Will I be willing to move beyond the ‘Nice post’, ‘Well written’, ‘Good job’ comments that are left on my posts and get to the core of what makes a really good piece? To that, I answer, YES! It’s time I take that plunge; out of my comfort zone and into uncharted waters.

It’s what my dad always says: ‘If you are receptive to change, change will seek you out.’


Go on and get some Moonshine for the weekend

This Post was  a Spicy Saturday Pick at Blog Adda!


33 thoughts on “Love letter :Dealing with Rejection

  1. Loved your way of dealing with rejections. One needs to be strong and take such things as stepping stones in the journey of writing and keep improving :).

  2. I had an episode in high school like that. I submitted a “descriptive scene” that I thought struck the perfect chord between moody and dangerous. It got a C+. I plucked up courage from I-have-no-idea-where and challenged the grade. Instead of sitting down with me to explain, the teacher (a favorite) shared it with another teacher and returned it to me saying the other teacher agreed with the grade. I didn’t challenge anything in any class for the rest of my high school career.

    It was only in college, when an English professor asked why I was taking what he called “Mickey Mouse” writing classes instead of more challenging courses, that I shrugged off the high school embarrassment. Even so, I’m still incredibly insecure about my writing. And I’ll sometimes still shut down when I get smacked down.

    As a teacher, I overcompensated by explaining TOO MUCH about how to improve and why a particular grade was earned.

    You are way ahead of me. And I’m glad to have read this.

  3. Why rejection feels so bad is because when you write you put a bit of ‘you’ out there to be judged. How can you separate comments about your work from yourself? They are a part of you – you’re putting a bit of your heart and soul there, right? So it’s natural to feel bad but what you do with that feeling is they key. And you Shailaja are completely on the right path. Waiting for that book..

  4. I was lucky enough to be part of Rowan’s silver lounge in the summer. We were a group of three writers each workshopping a piece of fiction, facilitated by Rowan. I learned so much from her and, while it was always nice to hear when I was doing something right, I learned so much more from her – and my fellow writers’ – constructive criticism. This is one of the strengths of Yeah Write, and what keeps me interested.
    Today’s post shows your courage and openness and I hope the letter will bring you the same postive growth I experienced. Good for you for such a great outlook – and thank you for the quotations from the book. They were pretty inspiring too!

  5. I got one of those so called “love” letters this week too. It had the opposite effect on me. It would have been fine if she would have stuck to constructive criticism of my story, but bashing the web design of my site went a bit too far. It made me feel like she was gunning for me and instead of making me want to “try” again it made me consider hanging it up. Considering I was simply entering it on a wall to be read on a website that provides prompts I was shocked to be nit picked to death by someone who obviously has an ax to grind.

    1. Kathy, we’re happy to discuss any aspect of a love letter that someone may find confusing; that’s why the editors have public email addresses and there’s a general contact address. No love letter should be considered the work of a single editor- we discuss each post carefully before making the decision to allow it on the voting grid or not each week. You should always feel free to contact the editors if after reading a love letter you’re still unsure about why you’ve received it.

  6. You know, Shailaja, over the years I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over my writing. At eighteen, I quit altogether because a single episode bruised my fragile teenage ego too much. I didn’t write again for fun for years, which I regret.
    However, over the past ten years or so, I’ve tried to receive criticism as you’ve done here; with grace and self-reflection. I used it as a way to improve. I’m still not a perfect writer, and I always work at it, just as you do.
    I guess what I’m saying here it keep at it! You’re an amazing person whom I really like, and that you want to improve just makes you all the more likable. 🙂

  7. All the best, Shailaja. You are one of the best creative writers I have read. I’m pretty much sure that you will publish your book soon enough. Without obstacles and hassles what fun the journey would be. These are just treats you will be able to reflect on when you finally kiss the trophy. Your positive attitude is a way to go.

  8. Love your attitude and that’s the way it should be! I am sure this one letter will be a stepping stone to bigger successes! All the very best for your book, Shailaja 🙂

  9. All the best to you. May you grow from strength to strength. 🙂
    A rejection letter sure sucks but you have taken it wonderfully. This is surely the harbinger of great things to come!

  10. Great going, Shailaja! Love your attitude. I am sure you will soon find acceptance letters in your mailbox soon 🙂 These are all learning steps along the way, I suppose. And you, my friend are making wonderful progress along the path. All the very best.

  11. Ah, I am glad that letter is motivating you to take the plunge – get that book out – ’cause forget what that letter says and your high school teachers, YOU ARE a GR8 writer Shailaja! 🙂 <3 I'd love to learn about which writer's group(s) you join and how they go: good luck and all the best, and more importantly have fun! 😉 <3

  12. Yes, Shailaja, I received my love letter the week before last. I’m happy to note that I too viewed it dispassionately, mainly because I had been receiving little signs even before that.
    The part about writers needing each other to support and encourage touched a chord because its damn lonely and frightening to be alone.
    I’m yet to muster courage to join a club because I cannot decide if I’m capable of that book.
    You, my dear friend, are way ahead to be deterred by such small hitches. Keep your chin up, join that club and dish out your best stories 🙂

  13. For starters, at least they had the courtesy to give you that feedback. Most organisations and publications don’t even take the time to do that. But I agree, rejection sucks. In fact there have been plenty of times where I haven’t submitted for stuff simply because of the fear of rejection. Love your attitude, Shailaja. Good luck and look forward to seeing your name in print soon. In the meantime, I think I should join a writers group with you too. Will be handy to learn a thing or two,

  14. What a great attitude to have, Shailaja! It’s hard not to take criticism on your writing personally. I try to equate it with auditioning for a role. You can be a great actor and not get a role because you aren’t what they’re looking for at that specific time.

  15. You have a great attitude, Shailaja! I like you a lot and hope you keep coming back. I struggle with writing and probably always will. I am not a star by any means, but I am content that my writing has improved a great deal with that type of feedback (I received quite a few love letters myself, back in the day two years ago). Keep at it, and it will show.

  16. Your spirit and kindness is one of my favorite things about you. Your willingness and desire to learn and grow are inspiring to me. I am certain that your writing will grow and I love that you’re joining a writer’s group! I think I’m going to need to check out that Chicken Soup book your reading. It sounds really great.

  17. You have done for us here what this editor did for you. You offer us hope and encouragement. That is what we are hope for and need. Thank you. Keep going and know that we value you.

  18. I fully agree with you, Shailaja!
    I remember, quite some time back, I, too, sent a short story to a magazine. They didn’t even have the decency to tell me that I will not see my work in their issue. But, I decided to take it as a lesson and got into working really hard on my writing. I know, I have not reached ‘that’ stage yet, but I am glad I did not let that rejection get to me. Thanks to their rejection, I met you and many more talented writers like you who have taught me so much!

  19. It takes a lot to get where we wish to see ourselves and you are half way there already 🙂 Best wishes (well, for me who hasn’t even started yet, it’s time to take the plunge 🙂 )

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