I don’t know about you, but there is something incredibly unsettling to me about the submission process. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it’s more than the defeat of continued rejection. It’s more about the overarching dynamic of the whole thing: you, the suppliant writer, desperate and begging to be accepted by the editors, those cruel gatekeepers who have the power to let us in or keep us out of those hallowed halls of literary success. Maybe that’s it: the strange power behind it all. Maybe that is what makes each of my rejections feel like little wrecking balls in my inbox, crashing into my life at what always seems like the worst possible time. Maybe that is why, when they are unnecessarily thoughtless, they can feel downright cruel. When they’re addressed to “Emily Lackey – 1,” for instance, or when they refer to my story by the wrong title, or when they don’t have any text to them at all but are just notifications that the status of my submission has switched in Submittable from “In Progress” to “Declined.”
Maybe, too, that is why the occasional shred of kindness feels remarkable. Why soft rejections or kindly worded letters can feel like little scraps of hope and compassion among the mulm of the amassing turndowns.
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