Taking the Path of Most Rejection

When an email starts with “Thank you,” you know it isn’t a good sign. “Thank you” is usually followed by words like “but” and “unfortunately.”

I received another one of these today, from a publication I have submitted to three separate times. It’s a life goal of mine to get into this publication, but with no feedback from the editors, it is difficult to avoid making the same mistakes. Three strikes might indicate it’s time to give up.

But that will never get me anywhere.

The paths I have gravitated towards in life are riddled with rejection at every turn. Every opportunity to achieve something remarkable is a double-edged sword, because it is also an opportunity to have my confidence chipped away.

As an aspiring writer and actor, rejection is an inevitable part of my daily life. Whether it’s sending a pitch to a publication or auditioning for a film or play, I risk being rejected in some way just about once a week. Odds are, at least a one of the stories I publish here on Medium each week is one that has been rejected by another publication.

And if you’re wondering, no, it doesn’t become easier to handle rejection the more I deal with it.

I’m a sensitive person. I don’t always have a thick skin. On days like today, when I have received not one, but two rejection emails, I tell myself things like “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”

But no amount of positive affirmations can ease the initial sting of rejection.

Rejection is often portrayed as empowering. Stephen King posted his rejection letters (and they were physical letters in his early writing career days) to his wall to motivate him. That seems like a pretty badass way to respond to rejection. Stories about actors’ early days of constant rejection are circulated on social media to show us that anyone who is great at anything had to fail a lot.

But the rejection emails in my inbox don’t always motivate me to keep writing and submitting.

Sometimes I think about retreating into a safe career where my ability to make money is only dependent on receiving one initial “yes"-- the one that gets me hired.

But in industries where there are gatekeepers, the professional “wins” are all the more rewarding.

Writing and acting, like any art forms, are subjective. I might write an article using the right format and the “right" narrative form and follow the publication guidelines to a T, and I might still get a “Thanks but no thanks” email.

Sometimes getting a yes seems like winning the lottery. But there is a method to the madness. So I’ll keep writing, editing, acting, learning, and refining my pitches.

I’ll keep playing the game, because winning will be worth it.

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