Recently I received a few rejection emails. Like all writers I felt disappointment and would much rather have an acceptance email, but I also realize that I don’t feel that same sort of disappointment when I receive a rejection letter. There are several complex reasons for this, which probably point to my own neuroses more than anything else. And since all bloggers are required by law to do a post with a list at some point, I am going to list them for you.
- When you open the mailbox and see that thin envelope with your own handwriting, you know that it is a rejection. An SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) is always a rejection. Because I use to send all my submissions through snail mail, I expected rejections when I opened my mailbox and acceptances when I opened my inbox. That changed when I began to send electronic submissions. Now when I open my email and see the name of a literary magazine, I don’t know if it is a rejection or an acceptance. I can still hope and by turn be disappointed.
- There is no arts and crafts potential. When you receive a rejection email all you can do is hit delete, unless you willing to risk breaking your computer screen. However, rejection letters have the potential for creativity. The most common is the collection of rejections that you will use to one day wallpaper a room, after you make a the best seller lists and win critical acclaim of course. However, some like to burn them, place curses on them, or cut them up for other crafts projects. There are even books that suggest a whole array of artsy project you can use them for. In the end, there is nothing cathartic about clicking delete.
- Most rejections are pre-written forms, and when a rejection is mailed to you it is easy to assess the level of rejection. If they took the time to write your name into the subject line, the rejection is better than the “Dear poet” form letter. The handwritten rejection commenting on your work is the holy grail of rejections, and you better submit there again. A lot of these details disappear when you receive an email. Short of actually commenting on your work, it’s much harder to decide whether your submission was seen “as promising but not quite there yet” or “holy crap what is wrong with this person.”
- You may be rejected for many reasons, but that does not necessarily mean that the magazine wants you to stop submitting. The editors at some magazines use rejections to encourage a relationships with the writers. The most entertaining rejection I ever received was from The Normal School, which was witty and accompanied by a sticker that read “I was rejected by The Normal School.” I was endeared immediately.
While I appreciate the inexpensive nature of online submission, I can’t help but miss the surprising potential for art or connection that I had with physical letters. However, that may just be the technophobe in me talking.