“I wish those editors would hurry up. This is the third day this week I haven’t received a rejection email.” Then there are days I mentally stamp my foot when I check my sent list and discover how much longer an editor has kept my submission than the magazine’s guidelines had cited. My thought: perhaps a guidelines update concerning turn-around time, would help ease an editor’s already limited schedule.
It isn’t really, because I discovered a simple way to turn rejection slips into published clips. I call it my “twenty-four-hour rule.” Translation: within twenty-four hours after a rejection letter appears in my mailbox or email, I must submit something; be it a poem or an article.
This process involves two simple steps. Step one; I am a list fiend of possible markets. Step two; I work ahead by recycling previous rejections as well as preparing new material. Thus, I have several envelopes or “packets” ready so I can send them off when I receive a rejection. During “a dry spell,” that is, when I receive no rejections over a period of time I make it a point to send out a packet or packets depending on how many I have ready. One of the spin-offs is that I often get a rejection letter a day or so after I put a packet in the mail. When that happens, I consider my rule applied.
I have several versions to my rule, which, by the way, is iron clad. When I receive my author’s copy, I send out new material to that magazine. Unless, the guidelines say otherwise. I also check magazine guidelines for submission dates and mark them on my calendar. When that date arrives, I make sure an envelope is ready to put in the mail. As part of my list of possible markets, I make a notation where I will send the submission if gets rejected.
My twenty-four-hour rule also helps me in several ways when I am writing. If I only have a short time slot between my other duties, I can double check the market listings or how long certain editors have had my submissions. Whether he or she is an editor I have a working relationship with or a first timer, I send off a status update request e-mail. The time I use in order to prepare my packets also gives me a break from the time I actually sit down and stare at the computer screen. After a break, I can return to my writing with a fresh eye.
The process is easy because my iron clad rule has helped me develop a routine. In fact, my response to a rejection has become almost automatic. Even though my rule is “iron clad,” I still give myself permission to forgo the rule if I am sick or I have more pressing commitments. After all, it’s my rule. As I have used it for several years, I have gained the much-needed wisdom of how I can stay balanced with my writing. I also feel more in control due to fact I have only a certain amount of material I send out. That means, my chances of getting a poem published in two different magazines drops considerably. (For newbie writers, while most editors accept simulations submissions, they prefer first dibs on your work should they accept it.) Even within these limits, I have noticed more of my work gets published due to the continuous circulation of my material. Whether I receive an acceptance or rejection, I thank the editor for considering my submission and returning it in a timely manner. While my gratitude is sincere, I also know it might improve my chances the next time I submit.
I believe attitude is ninety percent of the writing process. Thanks to my attitude rule, I don’t feel dejected when I receive a “thanks but no thanks” response. Not only that, I have also discovered my routine helps me to have a life outside of writing—last Saturday night, I went to the movies.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t get rejections every day. However, with my twenty-four-hour discovery, I don’t waste my precious time and energy singing the rejection slip blues. And so can you.
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Sister Lou Ella is a former teacher and librarian. She is a certified spiritual director as well as a poet and writer. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as America, First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and new verse news as well as in four anthologies: The Night’s Magician: Poems about the Moon, edited by Philip Kolin and Sue Brannnan Walker, Down to the Dark River edited by Philip Kolin, Secrets edited by Sue Brannan Walker and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53.)