Why rejection letters are the new Xanax

14-rules-of-storytellingI was hay making through the chaff in my inbox recently when I stumbled across a curt email from [enter not-so-prominent journal name here] informing me that my piece entitled [enter short story title] had unfortunately been rejected.

I can’t remember my precise reaction – it may have involved scratching my behind, or sucking out the remaining juice from the Tetley bag stranded at the bottom of the teapot – but it went along the lines of, ‘whatever’.

Having received a number of such electronic correspondences now, I’m finding that I’m slowly developing a relaxed sense of who-gives-a-fuckery to the whole rejection scene; an attitude not dissimilar to that of the telemarketer who has just been hung up on for the hundredth time. Every failure is just another chance to do it again! You dip your beret, archive the story in the ‘Rejected_and_or_revise’ directory, strap your lips to another jam jar filled with a cheap whisky blend, and begin typing all over again.

Queue psychotic laughing…

And here’s the thing: I’m not moping about and sticking tacks in my finger nails, or strangling the neighbour’s cat because I believe its feline imagination to be superior to mine – the glacial abyss of my ego has long ago frozen, baby. No, I’m actually happy.

Yes, read it again if you have to.

It makes me glad. Because every ‘no’ or ‘unfortunately’ or ‘didn’t quite make the cut’ or other euphemism for ‘why the hell did you bother?!’, is proof that I tried; that another paving stone has been hammered down on that rocky path travelled by just about every aspiring (and successful) author since the invention of the over-worked and under-whelmed journal editor – I’m just doing it with my own brand of charming inadequacy.

Feedback? Don’t mock me, sir!

As for feedback, I’ve had none. Nor do I expect any. Most  editors hardly have enough time to pick up their welfare cheques, let alone critique every 5000-word mini-masterpiece that evades their spam folders. Nor do I labour under the illusion that the guardians of these literary Shangri-las read every word of my manuscript, deciding only after careful reflection of the themes and characters that it doesn’t suit their esteemed publications. Most, if not all of my submissions were probably auto-rejected in less time it would take a grizzly bear to eat an after dinner mint.

Yet I remain content, like a petal floating on a still lake. All the commitment, hope and anxiety that fuelled each of my writing endeavours, no matter how platitudinous and uninspired the final product might have been, are renewable. Where there was once despair at the juncture of some irreconcilable plot point, or triumph at an unanticipated flash of brilliance, both despair and triumph will return, and, at the very least, when I’m scraping the bottom of the two-syllable swill bucket at eight o’clock in the morning, minutes before I have to start my day job, I can still say that I have tried, and that there’s always a next time… isn’t there?

Is there?

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