Raymond Carver rejected me today.
It wasn’t personal, of course; Raymond Carver passed away in 1988. It was actually a publication named in honor of Raymond Carver that passed me up.
Months ago, I began work on a short story entitled Windswept. It’s the first real writing that I have ever committed my heart to and, since I completed draft seven on the day before the deadline for submissions, I decided to go for it.
Now, months later, I am reading a personable rejection letter courtesy of the folks at Carve Magazine. Woe is me.
When I found out that my name is not among the finalists, honorable mentions or semifinalists, my reaction was a brash, egotistical lamentation:
The judges don’t know what true talent is!
Then I turned my scorn on the winning writers:
What kind of title is that for a short story? What’s so special about her? Texas? When did a good writer ever come from Texas?
Once I calmed myself—and quelled my ego—I realized that this rejection is well deserved. I also realized that it is an opportunity for edification.
Let’s get a few things straight. It is naïve for an amateur of any background to think that their first submission will immediately be bought up and celebrated with pats on the back and widespread acclaim. Why? Because that submission probably isn’t anywhere near the level of excellence that you attribute to it in your mind.
Mine certainly isn’t. This was not only the first time that I ever submitted my work for publication but also the first story that I committed to writing in earnest! Did I really expect it to be worthy of recognition so soon?
That is not to say that I endorse the self-deprecating attitude that plagues so many young writers. Far be it from me to discourage any writer from committing to their work, cultivating their skills and putting themselves out there just because an arduous journey awaits them.
On the contrary, I think the growing pains associated with a nascent writing career are important, humbling doses of reality. They need to be accepted as such in order for growth to be possible.
The fact is, rejection is a fundamental element of writing, even if it is an unfavorable one. The innate subjectivity of writing and its criticism tells me that rejection will always be there, in one form or another. I view rejection (especially at the amateur level) as a rite of passage for any writer. Even though my own rite is just beginning, I have already learned that I must face rejection, learn from it each time and then move on.
This all makes me think that perhaps Raymond Carver would be proud of me and the other rejects. Why wouldn’t he be proud of us?
The next true writer might be burgeoning among our ranks.
**UPDATE** Windswept was accepted by Nib Magazine and published in their debut issue.