The upside of rejection

No one likes to hear no.

But as hard as rejection is, it can help you out in the long run. Think of it as a forcing function. That poem I thought was perfect and sent out in the mail? If it comes back a few times, I know it’s ready for another look–for some tinkering, revising, completely reimagining, or setting aside for a long while (or forever). Would my poems be as good if they were accepted the first time? Would I have grown as much as a poet, a writer?

Right now, I daily face rejection on two fronts: poetry and a job search (which is more intense, because we’re talking food on the table). Sure, it would be great to get hired right away. But in the meantime, as I work and rework my resume, I’m learning more about what will be a good fit for me, how I can do my best work.

It reminds me of house-hunting. The market was hot then. Our first offer was used to jack up the price for someone else. Losing out on that house felt crushing, as though we’d never find another house as nice as that one. Three months and several more house offer later, I stood in a kitchen and thought, “I really want to live her.” It was a better fit, and we’ve been here 15 years. If we’d gotten that first house, we would have missed this one.

I don’t know whether every no gets you closer to a yes. I do know that you can’t get the yes unless you put yourself or your work out there, and that every rejection can help you learn or discover something new.

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