Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Crossing a writerly milestone

"We received a lot of great entries for this contest, and it took some time to read through them all. Although we did not select [your story] as an award winner, we are delighted you considered [us] as a potential home for your work."
My first rejection email. It's official: I'm a real writer.

One of my New Years resolutions this year was to enter 12 writing contests. I haven't had the guts or the work ethic to do this before, but after combing through my budget, I realized I would have to get creative to come up with an extra $7,000 dollars by year's end to pay for the rest of grad school if I wanted to avoid taking out another loan.

My solution: continue to put a chunk of money into my Money Market account every month, keep an eye out for manageable freelance opportunities, and enter writing contests like crazy. Publishers offer anywhere from $100-$3,000 to their grand prize winners, and I figured if I was persistent enough, I was bound to catch some of the cash being thrown around to prospective writers.

I was prepared to polish some of my blog entries, to submit short stories I've written for grad school so far, and to write fresh pieces that fit the parameters of any publication I liked. I gritted my teeth whenever I saw the words "Entrance fee required," but I knew I would have to invest a little bit if I wanted a big payoff.

What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how scary it would be to actually click the "Submit" button. I didn't expect to feel so vulnerable, like I was taking a giant leap of faith off a cliff. I've never been good at opening up with anyone, and here I was, sharing a small piece of my soul with a committee of complete strangers.

And then came the rejection. I waited for the hit to my self-esteem to come, for the crushing realization that I'm a failure, and for the intense need for brownies to make everything all better. None of it came. Instead, I felt liberated. 

My classmates in my grad school program always make snarky references to their growing pile of rejection letters. While I could commiserate with them, I couldn't really relate to that experience. So when I got my first rejection, I felt like I had crossed a crucial milestone to being a real writer. No writer makes it big on their first try--they usually have to pick themselves off the ground over and over again before they see a glimmer of success. Now, finally, I can at least say I'm on the right path.

Instead of printing out my rejection email for the sole purpose of burning it, I am starting a collection. Each rejection is just another affirmation that I'm doing something, rather than just waiting for something amazing to happen. In fact, tonight I think I'll enter two more contests.


  1. Wow Pal. If only everyone in the world thought like you.

  2. Well, that was inspirational. :)

    You're pretty much the coolest writer I know