Typically, when you submit to a lit mag, there’s days, weeks, even months of anguished waiting; biting your nails and pulling your hair (and if they take exceptionally long, perhaps biting your hair and pulling your nails) waiting for the email. Weeks of wondering whether the little notification bubble will bring you weal or woe, whether the time and effort will finally make it, finally drive you to the next—oh, rejection. Sometimes, they come as quickly and suddenly as that, not even letting you finish hoping.
My most recent rejection came thirty-four minutes after the submission was sent. Within thirty-four minutes, assuming the email was opened immediately and the process begun instantaneously, four poems had been read and rejected. Were they long poems? Certainly not, none more than a page in 12pt Times New Roman font, and at least one well under a page. Still, I couldn’t—cannot, truthfully—shake the feeling that thirty-four minutes isn't enough time to read and consider, genuinely read and consider, four pieces of poetry. It was frustrating, discouraging, everything I didn’t need it to be and nothing I’d hoped for.
I don’t write this to bemoan my rejection or mourn my poetry; rejection is the life of a writer, and I’m sure this was far from my last rejection, and could easily not even be the fastest one. We never know what the future holds. Instead, I write this to remind myself and hopefully others; some rejections take months, some take thirty-four minutes, but no amount of time taken reflects on the quality and conviction of the rejected writing. No amount of time taken reflects on the quality and conviction of the writer. And no amount of time taken reflects on quality and conviction of the person beneath the surface. Rejection is part of the process; when we look back from future successes, we’ll thank the editor who thought thirty-four minutes was enough, because while it may have been fast for considering poems, it was just enough time to teach a lesson.