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Rejection can be positive thing


Let the rejection begin.

I recently began looking for a full-time job in the academic arena, which I can hold while continuing work on a second master’s degree in English, and voila, I’ve received my first rejection letter. It reads:

“While your skills are certainly impressive, we have decided to hire another candidate for the position.”

Apparently my “impressive" skills weren’t impressive enough. But that’s OK. Sometimes I think job applicants should write rejection letters to people who interview them, too. They would read: “Thank you for taking the time to visit with me about what your company has to offer. While your salary offer was generous (we don’t mind eating bologna sandwiches and ramen noodles all the time), I have decided to employ my services with another company, which is more qualified to meet my family’s basic survival needs of food, shelter and clothing.

You get the idea.

I am bracing myself for a possible stack of rejection letters from would-be employers, if they even bother to send them out. Sometimes, rejects are not even worthy of a rejection letter.

But in addition to job hunting, I have another reason to look for even more rejection letters in my mailbox soon. My friend Mike Jimenez has been encouraging me to get off my butt, do some rewriting, and send out to publishers a book manuscript I’ve had lying around for years.

When I told Mike I had sent my manuscript to two or three publishers, all of which sent rejection letters – I even sent a copy to New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya who actually returned it with some encouraging comments and recommendations – Mike shook his head and scolded me.

“You haven’t gotten enough rejection letters yet,” Mike said and showed me his bin of rejections, which adds up to between 20 and 30 letters, not to mention e-mail rejections.

Mike is an expert in rejection letters. He pointed out it was that bin full of rejection letters that has led him now to what he has been eagerly awaiting for several years, coveted letters of acceptance.

Mike was like me. He sent out a book manuscript and got back two or three rejection letters and didn’t get back on the horse and ride again until 20 years later. Then in 2003, Mike got serious about his writing again and started sending out more query letters and manuscripts.

Over the past three years, he mounted up the rejection letters I mentioned above. And then finally ... now ... two major university presses are expressing interest in his manuscripts.

As I’ve found out, rejection letters can serve as an excuse to make you do nothing. Or, as Mike says, rejection letters can also bring you closer to those coveted letters of acceptance.

It’s kind of like the lottery. You can’t win unless you play. You may lose, but you’ve still got one in a billion chance of winning. When it comes to jobs and manuscripts, the odds are a little bit better when you actually do make the first move and, of course, you’ll never know until you try.

Before the good news, Mike was getting rejection after rejection. Instead of quitting, he said, “The hell with this,” and mailed four more queries to university presses. Ironically, however, it was the last rejection letter he got that inspired him to continue because the person had taken the time to tell him he had a very good query letter. So Mike knew he had gotten that part right. Next, he decided to go with an easier to read manuscript and that is what has drawn potential publishers’ attention.

Like Mike says, rejection has the ability to help us all become better people. Rejection letters are good to keep, too, because they serve as great reminders of the journey you took to that acceptance, or in some instances, can make a statement, when you do succeed, to those who rejected you.


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