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100 Rejections

January 2, 2017

A while back I read this article by Kim Laio, arguing that instead of aiming for acceptances when submitting poems or stories or other bits of literary gold to journals and presses, one should actually aim for rejection. Based on the suggestion of a more literarily successful friend, Kim sets a goal of getting 100 rejections in a year as a way to overcome her "fragile creative ego" and its lack of submission courage.  


Now, I don't have such a fragile creative ego; I don't worry so much about editors rejecting my work and thinking poorly of me or whatever else people tend to worry about when submitting.  I don't actually think it takes that much courage to submit to editors who wouldn't know me from a hole in the wall.  I find it takes far more courage to let people I know read my work, even if it's been published and therefore deemed "acceptable" by someone in the know. Sending poems out into the ether of the slushpile is easy.


That said, I do like getting acceptances far better than rejections (naturally). Problem is, the rejections far far outweigh the acceptances (also to be expected). In 2016, according to my submission spreadsheet, I received 52 rejections (9 of which were encouraging, but rejections all the same) and a mere 3 acceptances from lit journals (giving me an acceptance rate of 5.7%).  I also received 12 rejections from presses (for both full length and chapbook manuscripts). Such is the lot of the writer who wants to be read.


In 2017, then, I am aiming to almost double my rejections.  Maybe that means my acceptances will double too, which would be nice, but that's not the point. By putting the focus on the rejection tally, my intent is to change my attitude to the submission process.  Instead of getting my hopes up with each submission (thinking my work is a perfect fit and will surely be accepted, for example) only to come crashing down when the (almost) inevitable rejection, I can simply hope, with each manuscript I send out, for another rejection to add to my tally. It'll be like collecting points in a game, which sounds much more fun than experiencing crushing personal defeat, leading to deep questioning of my own poetic worth, with each rejected submission. (I might be being slightly hyperbolic here, but the point still stands.) If a stray acceptance finds its way through as well, so be it.


Doubling my yearly rejection tally may require some strategizing.  I'll need to send out more submissions, obviously. I also plan to target my submissions differently than I have in the past. Rather than aiming for journals and presses I think my work is "a good fit" for or where I think I have a "good chance" of getting accepted, I'm simply going to aim high. I plan to send to all the "top-tier" (and almost top-tier) highly respected journals, as defined by various rating systems on various other websites, as well as my own experience and intuition.  I've been doing this anyway (see note above regarding submissions and courage), but this year I'll do it with more gusto. I'll also completely stop submitting to less established, "lower-tier" journals. The goal is to get rejected, after all, and that is slightly less likely at such journals. The same goes for presses to which I will submit full-length and chapbook manuscripts. 

I'll keep a tally on my homepage of my rejections and which journals and presses they came from. I'll write about it here; I'm not sure what that will look like. I may also write here about other lost intentions and intentions to be lost, writerly and otherwise.  I have no idea what I'm doing so we'll see how that unfolds.  Here's to being lost in 2017.

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