The Rejection Binder

oh my god it's a sloth on a binder
oh my god it’s a sloth on a binder

Last week in my trusty old literary citizenship class, our topic was submitting stories to magazines. We read and talked about the pitfalls and ways to better your chances of success.

We also read and talked about rejection.

Because we have to. As writers, rejection is a part of life. Selling a few stories or a book doesn’t guarantee a “NO REJECTION” stamp on your cover letter. There will always be editors that don’t like your writing, slush pile readers having a bad day, and magazines that just aren’t the right fit for you. If you want to be a writer, get used to rejection.

I’m a young writer. I have a pretty small number of rejection letters at this point, because I haven’t sent out that many stories. To date, I have eight short story rejections and four rejected query letters (I sent them out in high school, and thankfully no one took me on. The book was shit, as first attempts at books often are, particularly when written by 16-year-olds). Hopefully, in the coming years, I’ll obtain many more rejection letters.

Wait, what?

Yeah. I’m hoping for more rejection letters. How else am I going to fill up my lovely rejection binder?

My majestic be-weaseled rejection binder.
My majestic be-weaseled rejection binder.

The idea of the rejection binder – that is, a binder that holds hard copies of all of my rejection letters – was introduced to me by David Barr Kirtley, an amazing writer, podcaster, and staffer at Alpha. When I started thinking about having my own, I messaged him and asked what his reasoning was for having a rejection binder. A few were practical:

You can use them to double-check where you’ve already submitted a particular story. You can also go back and look for patterns in the rejections that only become apparent over time.

A rejection binder can also keep your own writer angst in check:

Often I’ll have a story that I think everyone hated, but when I go back and look at the rejection letters, they’re not as bad as I remembered, which sometimes motivates me to go back and revise the story and send it out again.

But this is the reason that really stuck with me:

When you’re first starting out, it’s helpful to think of rejections as milestones. So it’s an accomplishment getting to 25, to 50, to 100, etc. That’s a lot more productive than looking at acceptances as an accomplishment, because you’re probably not going to have many/any of those. So the rejection letters are sort of like mementos of your progress.

I don’t want rejections to be so powerfully dreaded that they bury me. I’m going to get dozens of rejection letters, and I’d much rather celebrate them.

Thanks to my binder, you know what a rejection letter means to me? It means that I tried. I put this piece of my soul out there. I gave it to a stranger and asked them to consider showing it to other strangers. That’s hard! I cringe every time I hit “send” on a submission. Every time I get a rejection back, I can print it out, put it in my binder, and say, “Okay. Next market.”

no no no noThe rejection binder might not be for you. You might hate having a physical reminder of rejection hanging around. Maybe right now you’re shaking your head thinking, “Nope nope nope nope nope.” That’s totally okay!

But I hope that you’re intrigued. I hope you’re curious. I hope you go out, get a binder, customize a cover page, and start printing out rejection letters. If you do, you should totally send me some pictures. Let’s celebrate our rejections.

Oh, DBK did give me another reason, and this is obviously the most important:

You can use them to impress your writing students with how hardcore you are.

So hardcore.

What about you guys? How do you deal with rejection? Hit up the comments below.

10 thoughts on “The Rejection Binder

  1. I love this! I have a rejection postcard from Twilight Zone Magazine for a news item I sent them in 11th grade (to give you some perspective, TZ went out of print in… 1989, I think? And my rejection was several years before that. 🙂 ). I’ve kept it all these years because it has their mascot, Max the cigar-smoking cat, on it. How awesome that would look on the cover of a rejection binder!

    Thanks for the idea.

    1. That sounds like the most epic cover for a rejection binder ever. You should definitely do it! I’d love to hear how the rejection binder works out for you!

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