Taking A Break from Journal Submissions

Getting rejections from literary journals is no big thing anymore.  As an emerging fiction/nonfiction writer, you have to make your peace with rejections because you're gonna get a shitload of them.  There will be times when you'll get nothing but rejections for months and months and months.  More than you can possibly imagine.  One year, I got over a hundred rejections.  And what will fuck your idea of normalcy in this industry is that one day, one of your talented writing friends will get something picked up in a journal you've sent like a millions manuscripts to, and then you start to think:  shit, maybe it can happen.  Or:  well, why not me?  And writers need a certain among of unjustified faith to push through the inevitable rejection.  They need something to keep them moving forward when the evil voice inside their head says, "maybe there's a reason why you're not publishing anything.  Maybe you're just not good enough."  So, a certain amount of unjustified and unbridled faith can be fucking crucial in the biz.  Otherwise, we'd just give up.

I've published enough short stories and lyrical essays in enough legit literary journals and also received quite a lot of positive editorial feedback to know I'm certainly talented enough for this game.  But, for the past couple years, I've been struggling with a complex feeling of appreciation and exasperation with the good rejection standstill.  There are a bunch of journals, some of them very prestigious, that keep sending me good, sometimes even great rejections.  And I'm incredibly grateful for them.  I really am.  At the same time, while I used to think that eventually I could turn a good rejection from a great literary journal into an acceptance (as I did with Fiction), I'm now starting to feel like the good rejection has replaced the acceptance letter.  In other words, I'm starting to think that some editors are never gonna accept my shit, and the good rejection is actually a modern day consolation prize for the wall separating me from more famous authors with recognized agents.  I mean, good literary journals are only publishing 2-4 stories in any given issue anyway, most of them submitted by agents or solicited from the editor herself/himself.  The way the math works, some editors are simply never gonna publish you.  Ever.  And the rejection letter is as much a note of encouragement as it is a mea culpa for the stacked odds against you.

Maybe, that's cynical of me.  Maybe, I've got it all wrong.  But as it stands right now, I feel like I have to focus my energy of finding the right agent for my memoir and the right presses for my novels.  Nine years ago, I'd be ecstatic with my publication history.  Now, I'm like:  meh.  Not because I don't appreciate it, but because my best work hasn't even been published yet.  It hasn't even grazed the future readership it'll have someday once my books are all finally out there in the world, ready for public consumption.