Papa smurf and shin protectors
let's talk about rejection
I started a conversation on rejection, not too long ago and I want to talk deeper about it because rejection is seen as such a negative thing but I believe within it hides some positives. I’m not talking about rejection in the form of romance but more the rejection of your art. Whether you write poems, paint pictures or present ideas, rejection is a right kick in the shins.
I have had dozens upon dozens of rejections. We are in March and I just faced my thirteenth for this year alone. I submitted to be a podcast host, I submitted to a haiku contest and a bunch of other places too. Two of those places submitted my work but the thirteen is a much bigger portion and sometimes it’s really hard to accept the rejection. Sometimes I’m not able to brush it off and move on swiftly because most of these opportunities I know I would thrive in most. Because I want nothing more than to get my words further and to more people. Put absolutely plain and clear, it fucking sucks.
The thing about this newsletter is that there’s nothing I can say to make you feel better about rejection. It’s going to slug you in the belly no matter what, however, I can offer a different perspective and some upsides I have found in my work not being selected. I can tell you till I’m bluer than Papa Smurf to not give up but you’re going to have moments where you want to. Being realistic is important and you don’t have to act like it doesn’t hurt a little.
We are masters at hiding our pain. Non-wincers yet simultaneously in agony. We sewed pockets onto our hearts and tucked the things we don’t want to feel into them but eventually, they will dissolve and become a part of our blood. There’s no running from the hurt. The most you can do is delay it but why not feel it and move on? Why not be angry, sad, and disappointed and then push on stronger, hungrier with more passion than you’ve ever had?
Rejection is an opportunity to reanalyse your work. To look at it and ponder on where improvements could be made. Even when there’s a high chance that your work didn’t fit a certain publication, take the chance to look at your work from a constructive point of view. Challenging yourself and seeking improvement are certified ways to get better at anything. ‘You are now an alien’, a chapbook I wrote got rejected two times and each time I went in and reworked a couple of things and now it is truly what it wanted to be from the start. Reading that first version against the latest really makes me see that there is always more to give. That my best a few months ago is no longer my best right now. That each passing day I read, write, draw, whatever it is and I get better.
And circling back, sometimes it really is nothing more than a mismatch. Let’s say your poetry is biscuits but the publication you submitted to is a bread bin. No matter how well you dress your biscuits, it is never going to be bread. Yes, this analogy is pretty terrible but we always finish what we start. This is also a very UK-based analogy and by biscuits, I mean cookies for the US people out there. Now listen, a bread bin full of biscuits sounds incredible and I am sure I’ve actually dreamt of that before but what good is a biscuit when you want to make a ham sandwich?
What you create isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. And what you create doesn’t fit everywhere. Some people look at your work and have strong negative thoughts about it but guess what? It’s okay. It is impossible to please everybody. You will never be loved by the entire world. You can change your recipe and become a little more bread like or you can just keep searching for biscuit barrels. I vote for the second option because I bet your work is hella dope in front of the right people.
Take this newsletter as an example. I have the choice of writing this poetically through and through or making it more casual. I choose to implement both elements. I include the silly analogies my brain cooks up, I drop cuss words, and I include those details that make it feel like I’m talking to you on a day-to-day basis. I can guarantee that there are people who wish I didn’t include some of these things but this is how I like to write so this is how I’m going to write.
Staying true to yourself is the single most important thing you can do. You should never alter who you are or what you do for the sake of winning a contest or getting published or being liked. You should pick up the hammer and chip away at the voice you already have. Refine it, perfect it and then perfect it again. Be brave and admit that you’ll never be at your best because you’re going to continuously get better.
Don’t let rejection break you down to the point where you’re rebuilding everything differently. Even Harry Potter got rejected. Moby Dick was claimed to be too long and outdated. Peter Rabbit got rejected so much that it was self-published by the author. Lord of the flies faced rejection twenty times. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a mismatch. It’s an extremely difficult market to manoeuvre around. Don’t give up. Stay strong. And promise me you will never stop believing in yourself.
Don’t forget to subscribe and I will see you Wednesday for a reading of another old poem and some exclusive art and dope finds. See you then. If you aren’t subscribed you know what to do.
This was very needed for me to today as I go into another year of theatre auditions and another year of (probably) many many rejections 🥴 it’s exhausting and demoralizing but the art brings me so much joy I just can’t give up on it!