On Accepting Rejection

A swath dried flower heads and tan, brittle petals.

As I write this, I am waiting for resolution. That is: final judgment on a residency application, judgment on a fellowship application, a response from a literary agent, and the reveal of a major publication. All of these should be coming to some sort of conclusion within a few weeks. Even though I have a rough idea of the timeline, I still feel as if I may fall apart while I wait. There is so much to lose.

The other day, maybe Sunday, I realized that I had reached a point where rejections didn’t faze me in the way that they once did in previous years. I don’t obsess over submissions. I let my work go once I send it out. If it’s declined, I take whatever critique is offered then rework and resubmit. My writer’s skin has become scaly and thick.

Of course, after I realized this — and was feeling very proud of myself — I received a rejection that cut me. The editors had identified a major flaw in an essay I had submitted – and they let me know in detail. Just before my eyes rolled back in my head and my body turned to dust, I managed to read that there were elements of the essay that they actually liked and they asked me to resubmit. It was a small comfort, but one offered to me nonetheless. I am still slowly accepting, and learning to value, what the editors said because the essay I wrote was different in tone and voice than my previous works. It felt more like me and the writer I am becoming.

That moment taught me that I am not impervious to rejections. And I likely never will be. I have just reached a point where the stakes are more significant for me. (The mountains I’m climbing are a little higher now.) But it also taught me the importance of being in a constant state of growth and learning.

Rejections and failures allow us to define more of our path forward. Right now, this setback and the others I will likely experience are challenging me where I had not been challenged in years previous. This would not be possible if I never pushed past plateaus. If I only accepted the yes’s and never took my no’s and did something with them. If I didn’t realize the range of my capabilities and how much more of the road ahead is available to me.

How do you process rejections and failures? Do you have an understanding of their impact on you? Even if you’re not a writer, we all face one kind of rejection or another. We should sit with them and address how they make us feel and what part of the rejection is constructive, if any. These moments can be useful if we let them.

Don’t be too hard on yourself in the process.


P.S. I didn’t blog last month, so below is my TBR list for March and April:

March TBR –

Craft in The Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping (nonfiction, theory) by Matthew Salesses

Men We Reaped (memoir) by Jesmyn Ward

Tono Monogatari (manga, folklore) by Shigeru Mizuki

YOU DIED: An Anthology of the Afterlife (graphic novel), edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell

Cyclopedia Exotica (graphic novel) by Aminder Dhaliwal

April TBR —

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (memoir, cultural criticism) by Cathy Park Hong

Stone Fruit (graphic novel) by Lee Lai

Red Rock Baby Candy (nonfiction, graphic comics) by Shira Spector

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