An Editor’s Confessions
Dealing with rejections on a day to day basis.
I’ve been an editor for the Coffeelicious for over 10 months now. I’ve been writing stories for far longer, and I’ve faced my own share of rejections.
(There was a time when I would have said I’ve faced more than my share of rejections — but change comes often, sometimes for the better.)
Every rejection that comes your way is a sting from the scorpion world poisoning you with words: “You’re not ready.” “Your story is no good.” “You’re not really a writer, stop acting like one.” Of course, a rejection letter is better worded by the so awesome-language-knowing, having-a-better-idea-of-what-a-story-must-entail editors, but these are the words you’d tend to read between the lines.
Reading writing advice and knowing how your favorite authors have also been rejected (several times!) can keep you going. It’s something you have in common with them — not counting your life goals — which makes you feel you’re on the right path. For a while.
You soon learn to immunize yourself to the oncoming rejections. You learn to smile at each one, even when a little part of you is dying inside. You learn to hide that part well.
One day, you become an editor yourself. The start is good and you accept every story that comes your way. Everyone writes so well. Everyone has their unique voice. You revel in those voices. No one will ever have to go through the rejections I have, you think. No one should. You edit the stories, you leave little comments to make it better, but you never outright refuse. Until, one day, a story comes along, a piece of writing that makes you cringe as you read it, your mind jumping and jerking as the words stumble over each other on the page. This one is no good. The grammar is horrible and the words — was that slang? Grammarly is having a field day with the typos. There is no way this story can be approved.
You fire up the reply thread. “Hi,…”
How do you write a rejection letter?
Do you be blunt and say it?
Do you cushion the blow?
How do you make constructive feedback sound less critical?
You go back to all the rejection letters you’ve received. They are so simple. No reason. Just a general “It doesn’t suit us right now.” “This is not what we are looking for.”
Yes. That works.
Wait for it…
The awful feeling rises. You’ve made another writer feel what you did. What if the rejection crushes him? What if he stops writing? The world will lose another voice…and it’s all your fault.
Spider-man said, time and again, with great power comes great responsibility. You are an editor. You have the power to accept or reject.
Are you ready to shoulder it?
A few days pass…there is no new piece that begs a rejection. There are a few you didn’t personally like, but what if someone else did? You use that as an excuse, anything to not send a rejection again.
You wonder if the editors who sent you rejections felt the same way? Were they crushed as well? No, you decide. They must be hardened editors, used to sending out rejections.
But are you?
You are used to accepting rejections. God knows, you’ve learned how to handle them. But giving them? That requires a different set of balls.
Stories keep pouring in. Most are accepted. You’re thankful that the publication you’re an editor for accepts a variety of stories. A few pieces, unsavory in their form or voice do slip in. Another rejection goes out.
You confess to your friend about the rejections. You tell her how hard it is to deny someone what they are seeking, wanting, yearning — because you have been in their place, seeking, wanting, yearning for the exact same reason and being brushed off in the exact same way.
She is kind, and wise. She reminds you how the rejections you receive made you a better writer. How each one pushed you to work harder on your stories, improve your writing. She said, you had to work hard to get accepted, and they are on the same journey in a place where you once were, and by rejecting them you’re doing them a favor. If they stop writing, maybe they were never meant to be writers. But if they don’t, they may be great, one day. And you will have played a role in helping them reach there.
You remember the movie Whiplash. You remember how the constant stream of criticism can push you beyond your wildest dreams. You finally understand the words of your favorite authors: Rejections are like stepping stones for any budding writer. Every writer faces them.
Sending out rejections becomes easier. You write the message personally, leaving at least a sentence of criticism and where the writer should/can improve.
You hope the writer who is rejected today will be a great wordsmith in the future. You hope the writer continues to write. You hope this rejection is a stepping stone for the writer.
That’s the day you realize, the rejections that you’ve received have come with the same hopes from their senders.
Akshay G. finds immense pleasure in helping writers, especially new ones, get read. He is currently building his ideal life which includes a copious amount of tea, truckloads of books, and little scribbly ink stains on good paper, not necessarily in that order.