On finally completing that manuscript, crafting one sublime essay, mastering a poetic masterpiece, achieving your greatest photographic composition…now what?
Since writing here last week about deciding to collate my short stories into book form, aside from finishing the novel currently hogging my hard-drive, I’ve been considering rejection letters that surely will one day clog my inbox.
It undeniably takes guts to distribute one’s work to discerning literary and visual top-brass in hopes of securing their approval, leading to both professional validation and an increase in bank balance. Yes, yes, we all know that casting a net wide in this Writers & Artists pool will inevitably bait rejection but, parking our realism aside, each of us creatives hope for snagging that big break, to arise to the top of murky slush pile, be discovered, not adrift in sea of aspirational uncertainty.
So, this Monday morning, I approach the week with three rejection letters to lift my spirits. I laugh at all three–not just because creative brilliance was overlooked only to be inevitably discovered and produced, but the wording of said letters is quite hilarious.
I love that The New Yorker admits to perhaps ‘being dense’ in not understanding the correlation between sections of Sylvia’s Amnesiac submission; however, this is a fine example when the crux of a rejection encourages improvement to the writer’s work. Plath heeded their advice, crossed out the section TNY refers to and that deleted poem subsequently became ‘Lyonnesse.’
Plath reads the published Amnesiac here.
Gertrude Stein is a genius and ‘a trickster,’ says The New York Times in 2012. But Stein received this rejection letter in 1912. The rejection letter is rather ranting and odd, with Alfred C. Fifield mirroring Stein’s repetition in her submitted manuscript. Fiefield writes:
Only one look, one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Hardly one copy? Stein did publish this manuscript, The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress, in 1925. But would you recover from receiving such a rejection letter? Would it pack a hefty blow to your ego, to your confidence? Or, would your skin be thick enough to plough forward until publication? Stein certainly maintained a mighty determined focus throughout her career.
This year, a survey of comedians and comedy writers/actors cited Fawlty Towers as ‘the best British sitcom of all time’ but its rejection letter sent to BBC’s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment demonstrates that comedy genius can be overlooked. I wonder if Ian Main, the author of the rejection letter at top, later sat through all twelve of Cleese and Booth’s episodes, tossed back a few whiskeys and reconsidered his perhaps rash assessment that Fawlty Towers was anything other than ‘a collection of cliches’ that would ultimately prove ‘a disaster.’ Fawlty Towers can be marmite—some absolutely love it, some are not massive fans—but it’s survived many decades and Manuel still evokes guffaws worldwide.
A toast today to rejection letters!
Receiving one may punch the air temporarily from one’s gut but clearly, from the above and countless other examples (say hello JK Rowling), one agent’s mud pie is another agent’s scrumptious gateau.
Keep submitting your work. Success may just be one letter away.