By Anita Gill —
Facing Rejection: Having a Writing Cheerleader
A couple of months ago, an editor contacted me. He had published a story of mine in his journal years ago, and he wanted to contact past contributors so he would have things to say in an upcoming interview (i.e. Well, Anita has gone on to have great success in her writing…) Except that wasn’t true. Over the past two years, I hadn’t published a single thing. I had accumulated mounds of rejections.
I recently read about Michael Derrick Hudson, who received 50 rejections for his poem, but when he submitted them under the pseudonym of a Chinese woman, it was published after 9 rejections. It’s awful to appropriate an ethnic name to achieve publishing credits, but that’s not the reason I mention the story. The poet had received 50 rejections! How was he able to steel himself and keep submitting as the rejections piled up? (Apparently, the answer to that was to change his ethnicity and sex.)
With each rejection I get, I am a little more hesitant about submitting again. Maybe it’s not that good I think. Maybe it needs to be put away. Am I trying to protect myself from more rejection, and in that case, removing myself from the possibility of ever getting published?
I needed a new strategy—not one where I made a pen name and denied my personal ethnic identity. I needed an outside supporter to encourage me to keep submitting. I needed a cheerleader.
And I have one. She is an esteemed poet, has won awards and received a full ride to graduate school for creative writing. And she’s my writing fairy godmother—if my fairy godmother liked to curse and get angry. I wrote to her and told her my latest rejection woes. Within minutes, she responded over gchat:
“Screw them! They don’t know quality work!”
Editors work long hours and read a lot of writing that doesn’t meet the standards of their journal. They are passionate about what they do. I sympathize for them when they admit to receiving irate emails from the rejected writers with wounded egos.
The cheerleader gives me a chance to vent without burning bridges with a journal. It’s the person on my sidelines yelling at me to not let this setback get me down. That I must keep going, revise if I have to, and then find new places to submit.
Our relationship goes both ways. I recently received the following text from my cheerleader:
“I got three rejections for my book today.”
Remember that this is my friend, the award-winning poet. It’s frustrating to see her go through a day that makes her question her whole being as a creative agent in society. I am confident that her book will be published someday. And right now, she needs me as her cheerleader. So I respond:
“Then you’re three rejections closer to the acceptance!”
Writing is solitary. Rejection can be a blow to one’s ego. Even though I reread articles about other writers that have overcome failure (like this article about how the author of The Help got 60 rejections before an acceptance), it’s hard to keep writing.
In every book, there is a page or two of acknowledgements, usually located at the back. The author expresses gratitude towards the individuals who helped along the way, who provided support, guidance, or acted like a writing cheerleader. If you want to write, you have to face innumerable obstacles. Why not face them with a friend?
Anita Gill was given this name when she was born so that her grandparents could pronounce it, but they called her “Annie” instead. She claims to be from Washington, D.C. because people don’t know where Maryland is. Since then, she has also collected New York, Silver Spring, and Los Angeles as homes in addition to Madrid, Spain. She has taught in Montgomery College, Santa Monica College, and UCLA Extension while writing during every break possible. Her work has been published in Eastlit, FortyOunceBachelors, and the Swirlblog. She writes about books in her blog, Book Hunger. You can also find her on Instagram and Pinterest.