The children have gone back to school and today is my first proper day to get back to writing after the melee of Christmas. What a luxury! I spent a few hours doing housework, cleaning the dishwasher (talk about procrastination!) and shilly-shallying about, half dressed for a run, before finally forcing myself outside. I only did three miles but almost immediately felt enlivened, and more positive, and more myself.
I know I am like this - I know that forcing the old body into a run and making myself write makes me happy, despite the short-term discomfort every time. But it is still hard to keep motivated. With this in mind, I thought I'd write a little about rejection.


I've just had a rejection, actually. I applied for the Guest Editorship post of Butcher's Dog magazine, and really wanted to be given the role. It's a great magazine, and it would be an illuminating window of experience. I'm bored with my paying job as a journalist and I'd like to move sideways eventually..But, no... not to be, this time. I allowed myself to feel that sort of sharp tang of disappointment for an hour or two, then moved on to fresh ideas. There are so many opportunities out there.
It was the same with the Aldeburgh Eight which I applied for last year. I really, really wanted to have that time and space and affirmation to write. I got to a certain point in the selection process, but not far enough (and that is a little encouraging). I am already thinking about applying this year. And I will!
I suppose that might come across as annoyingly upbeat, but that is how I am..I think otherwise I would stop enjoying poetry for itself.
Here is a page from last year's diary which shows a pretty standard run of rejections for me -

I've heard that some poets use colour-coded spreadsheets or electronic database of their submissions, but I am more of an ad-hoc pen and paper person. Whatever works for the writer. What is important is to keep stuff 'out there', being read and to keep writing.
As you can see, the page above runs from January to April and shows a string of rejections. But I also try to see the positive - a 'reject but encouraging' from one magazine, a 'long list' from another. Poetry is so subjective, and personal, and having one poem rejected certainly does not mean it will not be published elsewhere. I sometimes think of my poems as birds when I send them out, and will them to fly to a new home (yes I know it sounds whimsical). There is still a frisson of excitement when it comes to printing them out, and slipping them into the post box in a crisp brown envelope and noting it all in my diary.


For years, I tried to get a poem into the now sadly-defunct Smith's Knoll. I loved this magazine, its thick, creamy pages and the quality of its work.. Behold the string of rejection slips below! And yet, now I know the poems I sent were not ready. The editors were right not to choose them, and six, seven years later, I am, actually, grateful for their judgment.

I keep these rejection slips in a folder and sometimes look at them. They're not so much a record of failure as a part of my history,  testament to a sort of resilience and drive to improve.  It is still much the same now, rejection-wise,  and I started sending poems out back in 2007. One day I hope to write a poem good enough to appear in The Rialto. I'll keep on keeping on. And just occasionally, an editor might get in touch and ask me to send some work to their magazine. It's as if all those rejections were necessary to get to that point.

These are the rejection 'rules' I write by - maybe they might be useful to others.

- Don't give up - even the most talented writers get work turned away (I know this for a fact)

-Always have something 'out there'. Poems must be read to be alive.

- Don't send poems too soon (guilty of this)

 - But make sure you send them eventually

- Getting published in the 'best' magazines is not what it's all about. It's got to be in the writing and shaping and surprising

- Don't stop writing. Allow yourself to write, and give yourself time.


Roy Marshall writes beautifully and amusingly about the business of being a poet here - it's well worth a read.


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