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What shapes a writer more, acceptance or rejection?

By Brooke Nind, Nithya Ramcharan, Grace Zhang, and Neeraja Kumar


Brooke Nind:

Rejection is redirection. I know it’s cheesy and you’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true. Rejection is so prevalent in the world of writing, and learning that a “no” from a publication or contest does not define your work or you as a writer is such an important lesson. Rejection has shaped me and my writing by pushing me to refine my work, to be authentic, and to not take things personally.

Although acceptance is a lovely feeling, it doesn’t ignite that fire within me to keep writing as powerfully as rejection does. When pieces that I tried to tailor to what I thought a judge or publication would prefer ended up being rejected, it confirmed that my work was better when it came from a genuine, more spontaneous place.

Rejections are part of the journey to acceptances, and there’s a lot to learn along the way-- about writing, and about yourself.

Nithya Ramcharan:

Brooke makes a great point that I can relate to about acceptance not kindling the “fire” or fervor to do better that rejection does. While rejection can be a damper at first (and, admittedly, can occasionally damage your morale), it has made me more determined to write better... and smarter. Rejection points me towards areas that are lacking in my writing. Sometimes, I’m rejected because my work isn’t suited for a specific platform, which also spurs me to search for those that might better fit me.

However, I do think an important factor in rejection is feedback. Sometimes, I’m not given a reason for my rejection, in which case I don’t know how to improve. Publications like Polyphony Lit, on the other hand, give detailed feedback from more than one reader, which can drastically improve your writing or at least encourage you to view it from a different perspective. When I know why my work wasn’t accepted, rejection shapes me more. That said, I would love to be accepted more often :).

Grace Zhang:

Rejection is bittersweet. However, all writers are prone to be turned down at one point or another during their journey. Instead of viewing the rejection as a boulder blocking your path, regard the feeling as a stepping stone to success.

Having the right mindset may alleviate your pain of getting rejected. Think about it this way: your writing is rejected not because it was inadequate, but because it has the potential to be better. Many best-selling authors have faced rejections in their life, yet they persevered with their work, which led them to their eventual success.

Yes, acceptance is crucial to your journey. However, rejection is equally, if not more, important in shaping your writing career.

Neeraja Kumar:

Writing is often a process of trial and error. You try to use the techniques and feedback you have received from classes or workshops that you attended, experiment a little beyond that, and send your piece to literary magazines, hoping that they understand all the thought you put into your piece. Getting an acceptance can feel like confirmation that you’re working in the right direction.

I feel that this is where magazines like Polyphony Lit come into play. If you receive a rejection from Polyphony Lit, it is accompanied with detailed feedback, which gives you an idea of what worked in your piece and what didn’t. Like Nithya and Brooke described, constructive feedback, coupled with the fire that lights up inside you after a rejection, has the potential to shape you as a writer far more than any acceptance.


Brooke Nind is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.

Nithya Ramcharan is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.

Grace Zhang is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.

Neeraja Kumar is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.


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