Failing Better Isn’t Really Failing (Literary Rejection Letters and You)

One of my favorite things about this blog is how many people find their way here by searching for information about literary rejection letters.  If there’s a word in German that means the opposite of Schadenfreude, that’d how I’d describe it:  It’s not that I’m glad for your literary travails, but it’s also not rank commiseration.  It’s a shame that neither of us are selling to Tin House, but let’s be honest:  thousands of very talented fiction writers and poets offer very good work every day, and only a tiny sliver of that is being shared with the world at mid-sized or major markets and web venues.

I worry less and less about that lately.  I’ve gotten to the point that the work I’m sending out has been workshopped at high levels, has been wrestled with, lived with, fought with, blown up, and, importantly, influenced by the ways I’ve learned to be a better reader.  You can do all these things without getting an MFA, and you should do them.

There’s a fairly famous online lit venue called Fail Better.  The monicker is taken from Samuel Beckett:

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

It doesn’t matter what your field is.  If we must fail, we might as well fail better.  And then we’re not really failing at all.

I got two rejection letters this morning.

No matter.

Do what you do, and do it as well as you can.  Stretch yourself, open your art or work or code to people whose opinions matter.  Stay your course, but don’t be afraid to be enriched by the eyes and ears of others willing to share their vantage.   Make friends.  Be nice.  Amazing things will happen.  You’re only failing if you’ve refused to let rejection make you better.


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