Joannie asked about Rejection...

I wrote a long-arse response to Joannie at her blog on rejection and I thought I'd post it here since I know many of you are writers and I think it's an interesting topic how we deal with rejection.

It may feel you are eavesdropping on a private conversation, but you are not and I welcome your comments about how you deal with rejection and how you get through the tough times as a writer and/or poet.

Dear Joannie,

I should be getting my rejection for the Morton prize today if you rec'd yours yesterday. They leave readers comments--I'm not sure how I feel about this. I can see the benefit, at least they can spell out what wasn't working or what was, at least for their own mind, but then there's the poet who may or may not agree with that.

Roethke always told his students not to criticize a unique voice or technique of a poet because that could be his/her emerging style. I think honestly, we need to look at reader comments as "I did not connect to your work at this time in my life." It's not that a certain type of writing is bad or wrong, but as flawed humans sometimes we even don't connect with the best work. And as perfect humans, sometimes we don't connect with the best work. And sometimes we just don't connect.

In response to a reader's comment:
two styles most prevalent…a tired, almost stubborn adherence to narrative, and an airy, ironic detachment, with a fleeting interest in any particular subject matter."

The "airy" and "fleeting" sound like a pseudo-intellectual grad student trying to sound important.

Yesterday, I received a rejection from Cleveland and I was not a finalist. How did I go from being chosen from a group of 1300 as a finalist to not even being noticed in a group of 700? Same manuscript, different outcome. Art is subjective. Always remember that and you do not have to change who you are to please others, you just need to find the people who connect to your work. I'm one of them. There are others.

Some days I'm good with rejection, some days not. Some days I'm not even good with being a finalist (oh the insecurities that brings out in me.) Back and forth, emotional tsunami, for me, I say "oh well" and keep moving forward. I will not allow others to stop me. I need to be my own best friend in such cases as there are enough people to put us down, we need to be the ones who won't let us stop trying.

with love,

* * *

So there we are. My pep-talk on rejection.

Note: Only once have I heard my daughter talk negative about herself, she said something like, "I'm terrible at this, I'll never get it..." and I told her, "Never talk bad about yourself because there are enough people in the world who will do it for you." Poets and writers need to remember the same thing. We may have self-doubts (and sometimes I can be crowned the queen of self-doubt), but as long as we don't allow that self-doubt (or others) to shut us down, we win. We only lose when we stop trying.

So good luck to all you poets and writers out there. Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you queens of New England.



  1. I totally needed to see this today. I got a particularly frustrating rejection from a publisher yesterday, and was really bummed last night. But I just need to keep going and trying.


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