While the the lower left corner of my mandible continues to twist in on itself in a misguided attempt to make me as fearsome of tooth as I am of demeanor whilst driving, Lockjaw magazine sent me a pithy rejection letter to at least add variety to the various pains in my a–, err, jaw.
I’m not sure why this particular rejection upsets me so much. I, like everyone who’s tried to make a go as a published writer, have received stacks of rejections. Its an unpleasant and unavoidable part of the process, unless your parents happen to work for a publishing company (I’m looking at you, kid who wrote E-Ragon). Maybe it’s the language Lockjaw’s editors used. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition between the promised individual critiques and the apparent fill-in-the-form manner in which the letter was actually written (Mary received her rejection a few days prior and it was very similar). Maybe it’s because I see truth in the editor’s/editors’ remarks, and that, coupled with a rejection, is an especially hard pill to swallow (especially given how swollen my throat’s become. Ba dum tsh, I’ll be here all week).
As I discuss our paired rejections with Mary, the similarity in them becomes even more apparent. I don’t feel better, but I feel less depressed and more annoyed. The advice of the editors, couched in vernacular, boiled down to the same for both of us: be more vague. Let the reader figure it out on his own. Ok, I can accept that. One of the many tenants of good writing is clarity without over-explanation. But, some explanation is required. The editor/s treat fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with the same panacea of tell less. That is, frankly, bunk. The poetry I wrote was poetry. It wasn’t autobiographical, or word association, or stories with funny punctuation. So to say the poems needed to be more obscure is a bit like saying a word scramble should be more anagram like. I also sent non-fiction, and while it was of the literary sort and thus much akin to fiction with focus on narrative and plot, non-fiction requires explanation. One has to know something of what he’s reading. The subject of the piece can’t be entirely vague, or the piece ceases to be creative non-fiction and becomes nothing more than words on paper, reflective not of a set of experiences and tied into no specific time or place.
I’ve already sent on some of the pieces to a different journal. I’ll save the advice of Lockjaw’s editors and look at it sometime later when my response to it will be less defensive, less reflexively pugilistic. I’ll keep writing, keep creating new and reworking old. At some point I’ll have forgotten the immediate sense of the rejection, and I’ll find the suggestions pasted from the letter into the portfolio, and I’ll read them dispassionately. I’ll look over the pieces then and edit, and in the end my work will improve.