I gave a talk this morning at a local venue in Dorset. I talked about the charity Words for the Wounded and also about my own writing. I’d been doing my preparation over the previous few days, going through some old files in my office and writing some notes.
I usually take along a few props, something to read, a couple of acceptance letters that were significant to my success and self belief. I also take a wad of rejection letters to give an idea of how much you have to work at getting a yes as opposed to a no. I don’t think I’ve read those rejection letters since I first received them. Many of the straightforward ‘no thank you’ letters were binned long ago but the ones I saved were from Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and The People’s Friend. They all contained valuable feedback – even if it was still a NO in the end. These letters from the fiction editors told me exactly where I was going wrong, with suggestions on how to put it right, so that it suited their readership.
Reading them now, 15 -20 years later, I see just how helpful they were. The thing is, back when I received them, when I was still a very new short story writer, I took these rejections personally, that it was a criticism that ‘I’ was not good enough. Oh, how valuable is hindsight. I so wish I had been able to step out of my insecurities and see them for what they were – technical details that could be adjusted – and loaded with encouragement.
I’d like to say a big thank you to those editors, those in the past, and those that encourage me still.
If you get a rejection letter with your story, with even the slightest bit of encouragement such as ‘We’d like to see more of your writing…’ take note and get writing. The only people who ever succeed in anything are those that work hard and never give up.