by Claire "The Bee's Knees" Hunt, Creative Nonfiction team and marketing team member
I don’t pretend to know why we all write – mostly because I’m not even sure why I write. It’s just something I’ve felt drawn to doing since I was a kid and it’s something I feel like I need to do.
I will, however, pretend to know why we all publish (or try to): writing is putting your most difficult thoughts and emotions (or, possibly, someone else’s thoughts and feelings) into words and, once we have done it, we want other people to experience it.
I got my first (and only) piece published last year in the Grub Street Literary Journal – a poem I wrote for an advanced poetry class called “Elegy for a Lost Doll.” It was a poem that, like everything I write, began as something completely different from what it became. This acceptance came under the condition that I omit my last stanza, which the editor felt was telling too much. This acceptance letter came after several rejections but, when it was accepted, those rejections didn’t matter. Having just that one piece accepted meant that I was doing my job as a writer: transcending my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences onto a page, in a way that others identify with.
At least, that’s what acceptance meant to me at the time.
This year, I worked on the Creative Non-Fiction team for Grub Street, where we were responsible for reading about 200 submitted pieces – we accepted seven. Sure, some pieces were accepted immediately and some were rejected immediately, but, the majority of the time, there was significant debate and discussion. One of the pieces we accepted, was given a “soft no” by the previous team, but a “hard yes” by our team. Several class periods were spent debating pieces that were good, but did not necessarily suit the needs of our journal. We spent weeks debating a story about eating chicken. There were pieces that, like my own, were only accepted because someone made a case for a simple edit that could be made to strengthen the piece.
Having worked on the Grub Street staff this year, I have learned that rejection actually means very little – in fact, if it means anything, it means you should keep working and submitting your work for publication.
Working on a literary journal has changed my understanding of “rejection.” Rejection does not mean that your writing is poor or that your piece should be disregarded; nor does rejection mean that no one liked your piece or felt that it held value. Instead, rejection might mean that you need to restructure your piece, rethink certain plot points, reconsider what is essential and what is not. Rejection should urge you to keep going – rejection should fuel you to rethink and revise your piece and send it elsewhere. As writers, as college students, or simply as people, we are going to face rejection everywhere – take pride in your rejections, because, chances are, it means you are that much closer to acceptance.
The mere act of feeling a piece that you have worked on is ready for publication is rewarding in and of itself. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep embracing rejection, knowing that acceptance is on its way.
Grub Street is Towson University's award-winning literary journal, run by undergraduates enrolled in "Editing the Literary Magazine."