5. Keep your rejection slips. This is the life, brothers and sisters. It ain’t pretty, and those rejection slips are your battle scars. Put them in a folder or envelope or drawer or that little box where you used to stash your reefer. Sending your work out is hard. By that I don’t mean that it’s labor-intensive (especially now that more and more outlets are accepting online submissions), but that it’s emotionally draining. You have worked on that story/essay/poem for what? Two months? A year? More? And now you are putting it out there to be judged. Hold on to these little notes as reminders that you are doing your job.
For a long time I believed this. I mean, if you're in a grad program that's what you're told. "Keep your rejections and then one day, when you're successful, you can laugh about them." After 15 years of keeping rejects do you know what I have? A file full of rejection slips--many of which are still used by those same publishers. Do I feel stronger, empowered, satisfied with a fat file of faded slips? No. Not in the least.
No one ever says keep your break-up letters, parking tickets, overdue library notices, or payment failure notifications. So why in the world do we keep our rejection slips? I've been rejected by some of the best journals, but a rejection is still a rejection. I believe in battle scars but I want my scars to heal. I don't need a reminder about how hard the po-biz is. I know it in my bones. I still submit anyway.
Every once in a while I get a nice rejection from an editor who really wanted to publish my work but chose not to. Great, but even if you liked my work you still didn't take it. A rejection is a rejection is a rejection. If you put lipstick on a pig do you know what you get? A rejection.
In the digital age, why are we holding on to these reminders? Admittedly, I keep all my electronic correspondence regarding submissions, including the rejections, in a submissions folder on email. This is just stupid on my part. It just makes me a virtual hoarder.
Rejection slips hold bad energy. What's more emotionally draining then reminders of past failures? Even using them as scrap paper is just bad juju. I'd rather move on to the next journal or zine interested in publishing my work. They're out there. That's what my battle scars have taught me. I don't need a slip of paper to remind me of it.