I wish I was cool enough to quote LL Cool J

I’ve said in previous posts that I’m a bit of a number cruncher.  But there’s one number that I always avoided crunching:  the ratio of my submissions to my rejections.  I know without looking that the number is high.  It’s bound to be–competition is fierce, and rejection is practically as much a part of the writing process as drafting or revision.  I admit that every rejection notice still makes me cringe, each one a sting in the ego I work hard to eschew in the first place, but I’ve gotten used to it.  I had a professor once who had a piece a glass embedded in his foot, and it was just a part of who he was, but every now and then it would shift and cut into him in such a way that he’d have to break out a cane and hobble around until he got used to it again.  Rejections are like that for me–I don’t like them, and I haven’t figured out a way to make them not hurt, but I understand that some days you just have to limp through until you can accept the pain.

But acceptances?  Those I still celebrate the way I celebrated birthdays as a kid, running around the house screaming and hopped up on sugar.  Which is why February has so far been a terrific, sugar-high month for me.

Earlier I posted that a friend’s long-running project, Driftless Review, was up and running online, and that my first article for that e-zine was online as well.  Then, the very next day, I received word from the literary journal Temenos that they had accepted one of my short-shorts for publication.  I was elated, fists pumping and all grins the rest of the evening.

And today, I learned that another literary journal, Forge, has accepted another of my short-shorts.  Two in almost a week?  I’m over the freaking moon here!  I feel like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, when he first realizes he has the house to himself and he tears through everything in a giddy frenzy, jumping on furniture, screaming with his hands in the air.  My poor wife, when she returns from work, isn’t going to know what to do with me.

Yet there’s also a calmer part, somewhere deep inside, the true root of the ego.  He’s in there with his arms folded, a calm smile on his face.  He says, “See?  I told you so.”  And even though he’s the part of the ego that’s the most necessary to let go of, he’s also the part I love the most.  Because when I sit down to write and wonder if what I’m working on is ever going to be any good, he’s the guy who quells the mob of internal editors, he’s the guy who says, “You can do this, this is good.”  So I figure he’s entitled to feel a little smug when a publication proves him right.

While you’re here, go check out the current issues of Temenos and Forge.  I submitted to them because they publish good stuff, so they’re worth checking out.  Check out Driftless Review, too.  I helped found that journal because I believe in their vision and I trust the drive and taste of their guru, Russ Brickey.  If you see something you like on any of those sites, let them know.  And if you have someone lounging around inside your head saying, “See?  You can submit to these guys, too,” do it!  Rejections are the reality of writing and publishing, but every acceptance is a reward, and if I deserve rewarding, I bet you do, too.


2 thoughts on “I wish I was cool enough to quote LL Cool J

  1. I am so happy for you! And it pleases me to know you get so much elation from your acceptance letters. By all means celebrate! But rejection letters are not “practically” as much a part of the writing process as drafting or revision – they ARE as much a part of it. They are, unfortunately, part of the job. Part of the job for everyone and that is what you must keep in mind during those inevitable low moments. And they make success even sweeter – so they do serve a purpose.

    But I ponder things like the nature of rejection and success when the words are dropping slow and I am gazing out the window. I try not to let either experience pull me too far off my center. Which is easier said than done, I admit. As your career progresses (and it will) you will have to deal with reviews. They are like rejection and acceptance letters, except on steroids. Again, I try not to let praise or criticism set the tone of my day. The worry I have with all this as I am not celebrating my successes as much as I should. But I do like to celebrate the successes of my friends – so I am going to sign off now and run through the apartment, fists pumping for you, Sam.

    1. I say “practically” because I don’t eschew expectations even more than I eschew ego (the expectations are slightly easier to get rid of). When I teach the writing process, I follow the usual “invention – creation – revision” paradigm, but I always add a fourth as the necessary endgame of the process: submission. What the results of submission will be, I don’t like to predict. Hence, “practically”: while I know that rejection is an expected part of the process, it’s not, strictly speaking, a necessary part of it. If it was, we’d all give up.

      But oh god, I hadn’t even gone to reviews! Whenever I’ve thought of them, I think I’ve romanticized them as a kind of professional criticism, like any other critique except it comes from that one guy in the workshop who thinks he has something to prove. Sometimes he has something useful to say, often he’s just offering “suggestions” to hear himself talk, but either way we all have to put up with That Guy. But now that you’re written it, I think you’re probably right, that reviews are more like “rejections […] on steroids.” I’m well versed in the art of self-deprecation, so I think I can let go of ego-swelling praise relatively easily, but a bad review? Here’s hoping I’m ready for those when they come….

      Thanks for commenting, as always, Lori! You offer a lot of great insights, both here and in your own blog, and I love your feedback whenever I get it.

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