Rejection Will Always Be There
Consider this your heads up.
A few years ago I started to take my writing more seriously. I had been in Grad School, done the PhD thing, and spent so much time on academic writing. I wanted to be a poet again. And by being a poet I mean, I suppose, just write poetry. So, I did it. And I sent things into journals. And I got rejected. All the time. Every time.
And I gave up. On poetry. On writing. On my voice. On myself.
And now, I am back. Hey all!
I feel better about my writing and myself. But rejection still happens. Oddly and daily. In strange ways. In valid ways. In painful ways.
In fact, it just happened. In two different ways. In three different spaces.
Does that mean I should give up again? Or perhaps, dear reader, that you should give up?
No, probably not. It just means that our work, what we do, is not for everyone. And for poetry it means that there are ancient and outdated laws about what poetry should look like, sound like, and who it should come from.
Rules that have always been broken and thankfully so, by some of the best poets. Rules that only matter in gate-keeping, truthfully.
But they had to work at it. So do I. So do you.
Elitism in poetry is the air we breathe in this field. I have learned that time and again. Big words, cloudy phrases, lengthy stanzas win out over the simple, the quick, the raw, the accessible.
There is a distinction and divide between are you “real” aka in journals, or with a degree. Or are you just a dreamer or impostor, aka writing online, self-published, new or striving. And there are ladders and bars and ropes that exist to keep some people out and boost some people up.
Such is art. Such is life.
Silver lining? A splash of hope? We all start somewhere.
Someone once said that all it takes to get started, to have something, to launch yourself in a field is 1000 dedicated supporters. That sounds like a lot to me right now. It sounds daunting.
After each rejection I ran to my poet friends, sobbing metaphorically, and my artist friends, whining artistically, and my musician friends, venting lyrically. They helped. Creatives know two things: creating and being rejected.
My musician friend had to go and show me poems he really likes and they are amazing. I am not going to name names because I am still in that bruised place of hurt. That childish childlike phase. The artist’s way is to sometimes see other peoples art and be inspired, and other times see other peoples art and feel burning pain and jealousy. And defeated in advance.
We waver between the joy of getting a response, a like, share, comment, and the pain of seeing what other people have done, are doing, of facing rejections and often flat out attacks. Or worse, facing silence. Putting something out there and it’s crickets. Crickets are a beautiful subject for poetry, by the way.
These ups and downs cannot make those of us in this to win this give up. And by win I mean win the feelings that come from being secure and fulfilled in our identities as poets, as writers, as creatives.
I was silent for decades. I was pushed into it by some and I let myself wallow in it because it was easier than trying to get back up and start again.
So, for me and for you, when this happens, brush it off. Learn from it. Grow from it. But always be you. Know thyself. That is the point of life and the point of poetry and art. Know and grow. And also, give. Give service, give kindness, give voice, give justice, give peace. Pass the good on.
I use too many commas, I write too many haikus, I am sometimes a bit boldly sociological, feminist, political, sure.
But this is something many people can use, see, appreciate, value, and support. My voice and my gifts are different from yours, and vice versa. We will find our audience and at times we might overlap.
We are all a community anyway. We all have been called here, chosen passionately by our art. We are right and welcome to bring our differences in style, art, taste, experience, wishes, to this table of writing and this vast and deep field of poetry.
Jenny Justice is a mom, Sociology instructor, and writer. You can follow her on Medium and at Jenny Justice, Writer. She has been recognized as a Top Writer on Medium in Poetry, Parenting, Reading, Education, Books, Racism, Feminism and Climate Change, so far.