|May Submit-O-Rama: Getting Pantsed|
One summer while I was working at a summer school program, one of the young boys I was working with came running up to me off the playground, sobbing. I asked him what was wrong, and he just climbed up into my lap and sat there, practically screaming with tears. I ran through the worst case scenarios in my head. He’d been stung by a wasp. Someone had punched him. A stranger had talked to him. My God, what could have happened?! I asked him over and over, even offered up some suggestions of what might have happened, and all he could do was shake his head. Finally, at a loss, I coaxed him to calm down.
“Take a couple breaths, count to five, and then tell me what happened,” I said.
He took a few shaky breaths, counted slowly to five, and then looked up at me and, with all the earnestness in the world, managed to stammer, “They pulled my pants down, Miss K.” And then, as I struggled to maintain control of my face, he added, “I didn’t sign up for this. Miss K, are you crying?”
The question came because I had to squeeze his face in a hug to hide my uncontrollable laughter.
Now, to be fair, there’s really nothing all that funny about what happened to that poor boy. He’d been embarrassed, he felt humiliated, and he’d been overwhelmed by his emotions. What was so funny at the time was the sincerity and solemnity of his statement that such humiliation wasn’t what he had “[signed] up for.” It was hilarious, such a serious statement coming from such a small child.
But I’ll bet it’s also what some of us are feeling right now.
When we enter into a period of submitting our work to editors, it’s with a sense of confidence that our work is ready. So when we are thanked for our confidence with a rejection … well, it feels a lot like being pantsed on the playground. It’s not what we signed up for. And it doesn’t feel good.
What did it take to make that little boy feel better? It wasn’t the hug, I’ll tell you that. And it wasn’t candy or any other superficial reward. It was him making the choice to look at his situation differently.
“Why did they pants you?” I asked him.
“They were doing it to everybody,” he answered.
“Everybody? That’s a lot of pantsing!”
He giggled. “Not everybody, Miss K. Just some of the boys. But …” His bottom lip trembled a little. “I kind of felt like … like a loser.”
“Come on, you’re not a loser. Were the other boys losers?”
“No. They’re fun guys.” (This kid.)
“Did any of them get upset?”
“No. They all laughed.” He sniffled. “I could laugh, too.”
I smiled at him. “Why could you laugh now?”
“Because! Now I’m just one of the guys!”
And with that, we both laughed.
Guess what? When you get rejected by a literary magazine, it doesn’t make you a loser. When you get rejected by five, or ten, or twenty literary magazines, it doesn’t make you a loser. Even if you get rejected by all the places you’ve submitted this month, it doesn’t make you a loser. It makes you “just one of the guys.” The Rejection Slip Club. We’re all members, because nobody gets accepted the first time around. And guess what else? Some folks don’t even get accepted the tenth, or hundredth, or thousandth time around. Sometimes it takes years to get that first acceptance letter.
The Rejection Slip Club isn’t a club for rejects. It’s a club for people who try. It’s a club for people with endurance and courage. And it’s a badge of honor on a road to greater things. It’s hard to see it now… just like it’s hard to see the sunshine through the rain. But just because it’s raining today doesn’t mean the sun will never shine again. And even if you’re stuck in an absolute monsoon season … the sun is out there. It’s waiting. You just have to remind yourself it will shine on you again.
So if you’ve been facing a ton of rejection slips, or even just one, have hope. And reward yourself anyway! Remember, a rejection means you’ve submitted … and that’s more than some other writers are doing, or have ever done! Even if it’s just a piece of chocolate after you submit, or a dance party to “Just Fine” (seriously … give it a listen, and do a little dance) to remind yourself that you’ll be just that … give yourself a reward for trying.
Then go try again.
Your Turn: How do you console yourself after a rejection? What keeps you going? Share your tips, stories, ideas, and more in the comments below!
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Check out the six Our Lost Jungle Submit-O-Rama Challenges!: