Getting rejected and feeling more like a writer

Many months ago I submitted a finished story of mine to a Chicago literary publication.

I was nervous. It was my first completed piece in a while, and I was really attached to it. It had become precious to me—something writers aren’t supposed to let happen. We’re not supposed to get too emotionally attached to our work because once we start submitting it (or hell, even workshopping it), we subject it to all sorts of criticism and sometimes abuse. It’s why I’ve been hesitant to submit it anywhere.

But I did finally submit it, and I knew it would take them a while to respond (per a notice on their submission site). So I eventually forgot about the stress of submitting it. I forgot about the fact people would read this and judge my worth as a writer. I forgot about that typo on my cover letter.

But then last week I finally heard back from the editor.

“Hi Erini:

Sorry we can’t use this, but please do try us again. I’d like to find something that fits [Publication].

Hope the writing is going well!

best,
[Editor]

Rather than being sad about my piece being rejected, I was excited. Please do try us again. He liked my writing. The piece wasn’t the right fit for their publication, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad piece. I just need to find the right venue for it. It was a spark of hope—a tiny validation that I’m on the right track, that I can do this.

I’m less afraid of submitting now, of sharing my work, of calling myself a writer. Writing is a very mentally and emotionally taxing thing at times, so sometimes my instinct is to hold on to it tight and protect it. I know I’ll still write some terrible pieces. But if I keep writing, somewhere in that jumbled mess or words there will be something amazing.