[The Art of Submission] A Fortress of Support
Written by
Emily Lackey
December 2014
Written by
Emily Lackey
December 2014

The other week I went to a reading by Tom McNeely, and during the question and answer session I asked him if he had ever had lulls in his career—periods of rejection, of not writing—and how he recovered from them. He said he had, of course. There were periods of extended rejection. There were periods of too much acceptance (which did even worse things to his process than the rejection, by the way), and, he said, there were periods of absolutely no writing. None. Not a word. These, he said, were the worst.


Of the many things that it took for him to start writing again—self-examination, time—the thing that saved him, the thing that brought him back, was having people in his life who wanted to read his work.


I haven’t yet experienced extended periods of not writing, but, as I finish up my MFA and face down the sometimes daily letters of rejection, I know that sometimes the only thing that stands between me and my own imploding ego is the small core of writer friends I cling to and who come crashing in, ready to do battle for me and my work at the drop of a text message, at the sound of a phone ringing.


If you are sending your work out for publication on a regular basis, you are going to run into a lot of rejection.


It’s a given.


And if you run into enough rejection, you are going to start to feel—among many things—that no one wants to read your work, that it’s awful, that it’s not worthy of being read. When all you are hearing from the writing world at large is that your work is not good enough, it is easy to start believing that this is true.


So. Find those friends. Find those friends who will read your work and give you honest feedback and tell you when the story you wrote in the first person plural totally falls flat. Build a fortress of support around your soft and vulnerable heart. Find the people in your life who want to read your work, who want to see your succeed. That way, when you get three rejections in one day, you will see more clearly that these are a result of subjectivity and bad timing and personal taste. Because there are already a growing group of people who want to read your work, who clamor for it, who fight tooth and nail to remind you that it is worthy. 

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  • Thanks Emily Lackey, I am currently submitting different work to publishers accepting submissions in the various genres I write, and to trusted contests. A rejection just came in and my first instict is to pay someone to read that work and tell what-for and what-not, but I have found that oppinions differ as does taste and preferences. I already have an editor I trust and a group of writing friends, so I will keep sending and writing.

  • Debra Borchert

    One of the ways I deal with rejection is to work for corporate clients who really like my work, say so, and pay me. Having that to rely on helps me deal with the inevitable rejections.