A writing friend of mine has papered her bathroom with rejection slips. Viewed in that context, they become less weighty, put into perspective. As writers, we tend to think of rejections from publishers as negative. But rejections can be gifts in disguise, offering us a way to make lemonade out of lemons.
There have been times when, once I let the initial sting of rejection subside and looked at the piece again, I could see why it wasn’t ready for publication or right for the place where I’d sent it. Often the work still was in an early stage, but I hadn’t recognized that yet. When we don’t have someone to edit our work, we can misjudge it, so it is important to view some rejections as professional feedback, not a rebuff.
In one rejection I received, the editor was kind enough to point out I hadn’t hit the emotional center of the piece. I was remaining too general, skirting the heart of the story. Once he pointed out my omission, I was able to literally turn honey into gold, the actual title of the article.
In another instance, I had written an article on cats. The editor of a cat magazine returned it without any comment, a response that can hurt even more than the typical form letter. That was a few months ago. Today I picked up the essay and could see clearly what wasn’t working: it didn’t have a sharp focus. Again, I hadn’t hit the heart of the piece.
After making a European grand tour recently, I wrote my first travel article, wanting to make other travelers aware of some problems I’d run into. I sent it off, expecting immediate acceptance: after all, the article made so much sense. Well, that was exactly the problem. The piece was too factual and needed more personal flavor. In this case, one travel editor, while patronizing, at least made valuable recommendations. I just overlooked his manner.
We writers need to create something beautiful—or at least useful—out of what might seem a negative experience. Make lemonade out of a lemon. Turn honey into gold.