‘Nothing that isn’t right’: the slush pile of rejection

Peanuts, by Charles Schultz

Peanuts, by Charles Schultz

Rejection. Even typing the word makes my back slump. The quote in the title is an actual line from a rejection email I received today, and tomorrow I hope it will make me laugh rather than holding my head in frustration. Because if you’re genuinely serious about this writing lark, then you have to accept, even prepare for, the cold hard kick in the stomach that is rejection. And then wait for it to kick again. And most likely again and then again, because you have no idea what will make it stop.

Chin up! I hear you say, there’s plenty more publishers/agents/grant providers/competitions/short story magazines/blogs-that-won’t-actually-pay-you-for-your- work in the sea! Look at JK Rowling! Look at – well, look at this entire website devoted to 100 great writers who were initially rejected. I would love to take heart from looking at them, only I am no Harper Lee, Stephanie Meyer or, indeed, JK Rowling.

The despondency that a rejection brings never fails to surprise me. I’ve had my fair share of ‘Thank you for sending us your work but…’s, and I like to think I’m pretty good at dusting myself off, but there’s something about having your work flung back at you which carries a particular sting. Perhaps it’s the hours of work, perhaps it’s because being published means so much, or perhaps it’s just plain old human insecurity and the need to be noticed.

I will laugh tomorrow, mainly because this is the most obtuse rejection reason I’ve every received. Then I’ll go for a run to the rhythm of the rejected writer Samuel Beckett’s words: Fail again. Fail better.


12 thoughts on “‘Nothing that isn’t right’: the slush pile of rejection

      • thanks Lucy. Story of my life, and good to be encouraged by greater minds than mine to carry on failing better and better, including falling off my bike in the Atlas mountains
        love from mum

  1. How can they have the temerity to reject your work when their statement ‘Nothing that isn’t right,’ seems grammatically tortuous and even inaccurate.
    Remember Lucy, as Scarlett O’Hara put it so very well, “After all tomorrow is another day”

  2. I was just going to say the same as Lesley. Double-negatives from a publisher! This is such an astute piece Lucy – it damn well hurts, doesn’t it? It’s the time thing that really gets me – I daren’t add up the weeks/months I’ve spent on rejected work that I really believed in. I *try* to see it as part of the learning process though. Keep in mind that you are a published writer – although I know it often doesn’t salve the sting of any current project.

    • Sometimes it’s almost worse isn’t it Paula – you think that if you’ve done it before you’ll do it again, surely? I wonder if it still happens to established writers, and still hurts as much?

      • Yes, and you’ve raised your own stakes by then too! I recall one of our Arvon tutors saying that getting published is never a guarantee of getting published again.

  3. I’ve only just seen this post as I’ve been on holiday and I wanted to comment and send hugs even though I have no helpful advice to offer, I’m afraid! I do follow a blog by someone called Seth Godin, which is based on entrepreneurship in business rather than writing, though a lot of his thoughts could be applied to pretty much any endeavour. He is always posting about how the best work comes out of failing over and over again and although that probably doesn’t make it hurt any less, hopefully it shows that it’s all contributing towards a greater purpose 🙂

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