Ritualizing Rejections

10 February 2021 on Blog, Storystorm  

During the full moon in Leo, on the 28th of January, I wrote down the name of every literary magazine that rejected me on tiny pieces of paper. I then went to my wintery backyard on a night that was about 21 degrees Fahrenheit but felt like ten degrees due to 15 mile per hour winds. I sat on a re-useable shopping bag by my pathetic baby charcoal grill. And when the wind wasn’t too strong, I lit a match and set my rejections on fire. Well, it took several matches, and eventually my hands and butt went numb, but with patience I set all my rejections aflame.

I don’t do this ritual often. It was my first time. But damn, did it need to happen. I understand my writing process as a cycle. It goes: sitting on an idea for too long, writing it all out in a week or two and feeling like a writing beast, fearlessly submitting and thinking I’m going to be the next big thing (viral baby!), and then receiving rejection after rejection after rejection from places I totally thought would be hot on my piece. This process is followed by a yearly period where I totally hate myself and lose total faith in my work. We will call this “dark night of the soul.”

Here’s the deal: I, you, we need to stop taking rejections so personally, because oddly enough, it’s not that personal. Just wrong timing. However, if you are anything like me, a giant crybaby, then you will feel a dig and you’ll hold onto that until you cry yourself into a black hole where there’s Bridgerton and bread and no inspiration whatsoever, just self-doubt.

I know that we ritualize the writing process. We light a candle, we brew our special tea and drink it out if our favorite mug, we take a walk in an inspiring place, or we write using that one good pen. When this happens, we feel on, ready to write that sexy idea down. But we should also ritualize rejections. This can look like burning rejections on a full moon in your backyard in the cold and smelling like smoke for the rest of the night. This can look like meditation every morning. This can look like having the best breakfast sandwich from your favorite café and chatting through your feels with a friend. But I think rejection rituals are hot. They are helpful and honestly they make you feel lighter so you can believe in yourself again.

Lindsey Wente is the nonfiction editor of Barnstorm. She is a second-year MFA student at the University of New Hampshire.

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