failure, rejection, writer, writing

Step 227: Rejection is a Part of the Writing Life

I used to keep a file of rejection letters from companies where I applied for jobs. I may have them buried in a sealed box somewhere on the top shelf of my closet. I hope so – some day I want to make sure to go back and read them. Most of them were probably right to reject me. And those rejections didn’t get me down; they just made me work harder and that probably warrants a thank you note to each of them.

As a freelance writer, rejection is part of the path. In the end, I know I’m a better writer for all of the rejections I’ve received (and there have been many.) There’s no getting away from the occasional (or common) ding. A few days ago I received the latest in a long line, though I must admit it did have some interesting insights and a compliment thrown in at the end. It is in response to a piece I wrote on my recent jury duty service where I believe that the defendant was a victim of racial profiling, landing him with an unjust prison sentence. What strikes me as sad about the rejection letter is that the injustice that I discussed in the essay would be considered commonplace (and therefore acceptable) by anyone, most of all an editor of a highly respected publication.

I will post the essay on this blog as tomorrow’s entry because I think it deserves as wide a reach of audience as I can get for it, not for my sake but for the sake of the defendant in the trial. In the mean time, here’s the magazine editor’s response to my submission.


Thanks for the submission. I’m afraid this isn’t a good fit for us, though. Certainly an injustice seems to have occurred, and it seems sensible to lament it. But as lamentable as it is, the story here feels too commonplace to support an essay. That our codes of law have areas of absurdity, and that minority citizens are more vulnerable than privileged ones, are widely recognized facts. The case of Mr. Bond illustrates those facts, but an essay must do more than that to be compelling — whether by means of a counter-intuitive twist, an eccentric voice, or some other mechanism that either delivers us to a destination that’s different than we might have expected, or gets us there by an unexpected route.

You write well and clearly, and I would be more than happy to consider other submissions from you. I just don’t think this is the one for us.