No career is built without rejection. Every hopeful applicant submits resume after resume, only to be rejected until that final acceptance comes through. Every service provider submits proposal after proposal, chasing after more projects than the company could possibly handle, because company executives know that rejections far outnumber acceptances. Therefore, it’s no surprise that rejection flavors a writer’s life, too.

Rejection comes in various levels, from the mysterious black hole into which synopses and cover letters disappear without ever receiving a response to brutal “you suck” reviews to gentle “we liked it, but it’s not for us” replies. Personally, I find the black hole approach the most offensive.

Today I received a gentle rejection from Pulp Literature Press. I submitted a short story to them in response to a call for submissions and then promptly forgot about having done so. The rejection stated that two editors considered my story, but finally decided that it just didn’t make the cut. That’s actually encouraging. Not as encouraging as an acceptance, but it came with an invitation to submit again.

That encouragement comes as validation. My writing doesn’t suck. Perhaps it’s not quite what was wanted, but it didn’t suck.

Writers are a needy bunch. We need validation, if only to justify what we do. Since the work we put out for the public to see bears our names and oftentimes a piece of our souls, we’re desperate for validation. One might think that multitudes of favorable recommendations might result in a writer’s swollen ego, but every writer knows that the next scathing, confidence-crushing critique could be seconds away.

It’s difficult to put yourself on display for the world’s criticism, because the general public isn’t known for its kindness. Any writer who embarks upon a career as a published writer must develop a thick hide if only for self-protection against constant rejection, blatant and lurking in the shadows. The writer must also develop a way to dig the good from even cruel reviews, learn from them, and use that cruelty to improve one’s craftsmanship.

For a writer, failure isn’t rejection. Failure is quitting. Writers who don’t write cannot call themselves writers. For some of us, not writing is not an option. We write because we must. The production of content then compiles into at least a small measure of success to which one can point and say, “I did that. I created that.”