Dispatches | October 22, 2010

Everyone faces rejection. And if you’re a writer sending out your stories, poems, or essays, you face a lot of it. When I first started sending out my work, I was actually excited to receive my first rejection form in the mail. That feeling didn’t last long. After a while, I came up with the idea of using all the rejection forms I’d accumulated to decoupage some piece of furniture in the house. A chair maybe. Then it became apparent that I’d need a really big chair. Or maybe a table as well. Between me and my wife, a poet who was also sending out her work, we felt as if it was only a matter of time before we could wallpaper a room, maybe even our entire house, with the gentle letdowns of editors from across the nation.

This, we were learning, was the life of a writer. Most of the time, work gets rejected. We knew it was nothing personal. It just sort of sucked. That daily, hopeful trip to the mailbox more often than not—way more often—preceded a slow stumble back to the house.

Then one of us (I don’t remember who) came up with an idea of the Rejection Jar. Here’s how it works:

1. Get yourself a Mason jar.

2. Paint the words “Rejection Jar” on it. Make the colors bright and cheerful. Display the jar proudly in your home.

3. Every time you receive a rejection, either in the mail or via email, stuff a dollar bill into the jar.

4. Repeat.

5. After a while, if you keep sending out your work, you’ll have accumulated lots of money in the jar. What should you do with this money? Something fun. Take your significant other out to dinner. Buy a t-shirt with a favorite movie slogan on it.    Anything you like as long as it’s frivolous. No bill paying. No groceries.  Pasta sauce? No. Concert tickets? Yes.

Remember: a rejection isn’t the end of the world.

And with the rejection jar, you can actually learn to love that little slip of paper that says, “Although we’ve read your work with great interest…”

It only means you’re a dollar closer to a day at Six Flags.

Michael Kardos is the author of the story collection One Last Good Time, forthcoming in February 2011 from Press 53. While earning his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he served as Contest Editor for The Missouri Review. He currently co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. His website is michaelkardos.com.