By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
I’ve been getting a lot of rejection letters recently, and I’m honestly thrilled about it.
If they came as actual letters instead of emails, I’d probably save them in a little rejection folder somewhere or pin them to my corkboard. I’m constantly tempted to brag about how many I’ve been getting over the past few months—it’s not an inordinate amount, somewhere between five and seven, but each rejection letter feels like a little victory.
I’m not being ironic about this, either. This isn’t some self-effacing reverse psychology essay on how much I love failure when I’m actually crushed about it. Obviously, an acceptance letter always feels better, and I’ve gotten one or two of those as well. But I really do love my rejection letters because to me, it’s tangible proof that I’m actually trying.
I’ve written in a previous lettitor about my fear of failure and how it’s prevented me from ever really attempting to move forward. One of my goals is to become a published author, for example. But no matter how much I wrote over the past two decades to try and achieve that goal, I never took the next step of submitting my work for publication. I was spinning my wheels with no forward momentum, because I never felt that my work was good enough. I would abandon projects halfway through if I didn’t feel the writing was up to par, and I’d refrain from applying for jobs or creative gigs that I felt were beyond me because in my mind, it almost felt like I was insulting the people on the other end of that decision by even putting my name forward.
My sister and I decided earlier this year that we’ve both been stalling our personal progress because of this internal bias against ourselves and vowed to try to get over it, declaring this year to be “shoot your shot” year. However, it was only with the help of a few Douglas College professors—Liz Bachinsky and Rick Maddocks—that I managed to start moving past this block. Both instructors encouraged me to start submitting pieces for publication. So, I started buckling down and searching for contests and literary journals to submit to.
It hasn’t been easy. There was one memorable 24-hour period where I received three rejection letters in a row—one from a literary journal, one from a winter short story contest, and one from a timed writing contest. I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel too excited about receiving those rejection letters at the time.
But on the whole, I do have to say I feel better about myself. If at the end of this year I still have not achieved that publishing dream, at the very least I can look back at all the rejection letters and know that I’ve been moving forward. It’s something tangible to hold onto, something I can say I have in common with all the published authors and creative voices I admire. I’m climbing the same mountain of “no’s” that they did, and even if I never reach the desired summit of “yes,” the important thing is that I’m still doing the thing I have my heart set on doing. I’m not waiting to be magically plucked from obscurity, I’m working for it, and right now the rejection letters are proof that I’m putting in the time and effort. It’s something to be proud of.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t wait to be perfect. Don’t wait for some kind of guaranteed “yes” if it’s something you’re really passionate about. The worst anyone can say to you is “no,” and depending on how you frame that “no,” it’s really nothing to be afraid of.
Until next issue,