Thursday, April 1, 2010

The positive side of rejections

Last night, I got a rejection email for a pitch that I sent to a national glossy a couple of months ago. Addressing me by my first name, the editor thanked me but said they’d decided to cover the topic in a different way. As far as rejections go, it was pretty neutral. There was nothing in it to make me hopeful about future pitches (though previous rejections from this editor had encouraged me to send more queries) nor did it make me want to curl up and cry. When I turned off my computer and went to bed for the night, I thought about the rejection again and felt strangely content.

I often feel this way about rejections.

I don’t know how it is for most of you freelancers out there, but I don’t receive a response of any kind for more than half of my pitches. This annoys the crap out of me. I put a lot of effort into each pitch, gathering expert quotes and sources, and make sure to suggest an appropriate department of the magazine for the story. I know editors are swamped, but how hard can it be to type a quick “no thanks” as a courteous nod to the work the pitch entailed? I could understand ignoring the query if it was topically off-base or full of misspelling and grammatical errors, but my queries aren’t.

As I lay in bed, I started thinking about why rejections bring a certain satisfaction to me and came up with the following:

1. Rejections bring closure. I dislike the tired word “closure” but it’s accurate here. I appreciate knowing when a query is officially off the table and I’m free to shop it to the next pub. Of course, since so many editors don’t bother with rejection letters, most of the time I don’t wait for a rejection to send a query off again. Still, it’s nice to know that I can send it elsewhere without any potential awkwardness.

2. Rejections are a form of acknowledgement. A rejection means that my email got to where it was supposed to go (I always fear that it is sitting unread in someone’s spam folder). It also means that someone read it and gave it at least a few seconds of thought, possibly much more.

3. Rejections bring opportunity. Rejections are a good opportunity to contact the editor again. After receiving last night’s rejection, I quickly sent an email to the editor thanking her for her response and promising her another query in the near future. I spent this morning researching other topics so that I can send her another pitch later this week. At the very least, this will help to keep me on her radar screen. Even if she rejects the next pitch, at least I’m taking steps towards becoming a familiar name to her. The more familiar I become to her, the more willing she might be to take a chance on one of my proposals…assuming, of course, that I’m presenting her with good work.

4. Rejections are part of the writing life. To me, rejection is the flip side of publishing an article –a kind of badge of courage. A few years ago several freelancers on the writer's forum that I frequent made goals to receive a certain number of rejections a year instead of acceptances. I thought that was pretty wise. If you’re getting rejections, it means you’re putting your ideas and work out there. It means you’re trying. It means you’re writing. Rejections are an inevitable part of a writer’s life. And somehow it’s the teensiest bit satisfying to receive this confirmation that a writer’s life is indeed mine.

How do you handle rejections? Have you ever had something positive arise out of a rejection?


  1. Hiya Barbara (Cleo),

    I really needed to read this today. I was feeling so discouraged today. I received a rejection yesterday. A nice one. One that said we've filled our positions, but will keep your info on file. I responded with a thank you email because I know editors get swamped and the fact that this editor took the time to email me personally was nice. But, today, I felt blech! This was for a position, not for a magazine. But, rejection stinks no matter where it comes from. I want to thank you for putting this into perspective for me. I'm sure that I can think back to a time when I was rejection only to have the drive to keep trying, but I'm exhausted from my day job right now. lol But, your post encourages me to keep at it, because this too shall pass and I will grow as a writer.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Sky. I'm glad you found the post helpful. Sorry about the rejection but you're right to try to keep it in perspective...we've got to as writers or we just might sink! Good luck and hang in there!


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