So I just received my second rejection. The first was from the Beliot Poetry Journal (which was really sweet of the editor to tell me that although they were going to pass on my “self-confessional PSYCH ward poetic experience” he’s glad I’ve survived all of the things I’ve been through- haha…love that) and the second was from The New Yorker- a different poem entirely.
I won’t lie. The first one stung. Like a bee. Right in the head. (Obviously, it hit the ego more than the heart, but at least I’m aware of this.) What, I have an ego? YES. I frikking have an ego! Guh…it gets old. I’m fairly certain any artist, musician, or writer knows damn well what I’m talking about. There’s a fine line between wanting to share your art and wanting to feed your ego: this is the truth and it’s how it is. As artists, we like to dress things up like that old beast just doesn’t exist and we simply “are driven to create!” but what drives us? If we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that at least sometimes, it’s the ego. If we’re in denial, we’ll say, “it’s just something I feel I have to do!” (Etc.)
So, there’s always that battle: self vs. art vs. self and striving to be more than simply wanting to get that little stroke that pushes you to your next piece. This is what I’m always thinking of when I submit new art somewhere: what am I searching for? Simply sharing this piece? What is my message? Am I imparting enough of myself in this piece so that people can feel it? I need to be saying something. Yes, the “praise” and the feedback come with the territory- that does feel like a warm, squishy blanket of “acceptance”- sure it does, but I want to know that I’m making an impression on somebody and adding something- no matter how small- to their lives, or the way they think, see, and feel.
Which brings me back to rejection. As in, “rejected by editors”. Maybe I’m a bit of a sadist, but I’m celebrating being rejected. Yes, I’m serious! I was rejected from the New Yorker,-come on…it’s The New Yorker for crying out loud. Being rejected from The New Yorker is a rite of passage. While the first rejection stung (get over yourself, kid!) I was completely elated by the 2nd one. Tickled. Serious tickled, because although I’ve been writing since I was a teenager (poems, songs, short stories, etc.) and have never had any education there at all- even having dropped out of high school in the 10th grade- I’m still acutely aware of my own ignorance as a writer, and, a poet. By claiming total ignorance, I can open my eyes and mind and have the necessary depth to fill in with an education in Creative Writing. Because I’m going into this saying “I know nothing”, I can learn so much more. Ego deflated!
I’ve created a Poem folder on my laptop, and also, a “Rejection” folder. It’s the rejection folder that will drive me in my art and work far more than any other. It’s proof that I have tried and do try and will not stop trying. I’m copying and pasting every rejection into that folder (dated, filed away).
Failure is nothing more than proof that you have tried.
I also entered my first short story competition last night- the top prize is $3,000. That one is going to hurt. Ha. But, it’s being slapped down in life that I have turned into an art form, so, the more rejections I receive (and there will be plenty); the more food for more art. It’s a self-sustaining cycle but one that holds valuable lessons for me, and I cherish them dearly.