Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rejection is good for the soul

New writers tend to get discouraged when they submit work for publication and it comes back with a rejection slip. I remember being mortified when a piece of which I’d been particularly proud came back with ‘Can’t use this’ scrawled across it. Was it too long, too short, not their type of thing – or was it just plain bad? They didn’t say, but I learned something from it: never send anything to that paper again.
That’s my point – you can always learn something from rejection. Even no answer at all is a lesson. When I started to write, my acceptance rate was one in 27 submissions, so I must have learned something. I learned which magazines not to submit to: which magazines use only staff writers; which only accept stuff from celebs (whether they wrote it or not); and which schmucks will turn your article down, and then pass a copy to a friend to write up your idea (You can spot that the staples have been moved.) And of course you find out who likes your stuff.
I sent my book to 31 carefully-selected publishers and agents – before number 32 almost bit my hand off.
I still get rejections, but they’re much more polite these days. They address me by first name, and they explain why. They say ‘Thanks for sending us the piece. Sorry, but we just did a feature on one-armed archery – but don’t stop sending us stuff’. I don’t think I became a significantly better writer – I just started to look at things from the other side. How do you learn that? Rejections.
Just like life really.

Couldn't make it to the Vilnius (Lithuania) Jazz Festival last weekend. What is it about the Baltics and jazz? I think it’s a kind of reaction after Russian and German occupation – neither Hitler nor Stalin liked jazz. And look what happened to them.
There’s this artist who’s holding an exhibition in London. What’s his medium – oils, watercolour? Neither - it’s toast. True - he burns sliced bread with a blow-torch, then scratches his pictures in the black toast. Bet it doesn’t half make a mess in the sink.


Ed R said...

THis is good, as I am about to get rejected a billion times on something I'm writing.

ted said...

Good luck with that, Ed. (Another thing I learned is that the stuff they tell you about waiting for a response from paper A before submitting to paper B is rubbish - they're not that courteous. A to M this week, N to Z next, I say.)