Back when I was a Girl Scout, I went to camp every summer. Even the littlest campers were expected to help out with chores, both in their individual units and in the larger campground. One week, I was assigned to rake the pine straw off the sandy path from one area to another after breakfast each morning. One day, I was making progress, raking the path in long steady strokes. A counselor I didn’t know came up to supervise. Unhappy with my progress, she shouted, “Speed it up!” I was stunned and hurt. I was doing the best I could with my scrawny, little girl arms.
The next morning, I different counselor came along to monitor the chores. She said, as best as I can remember, “You’re doing a great job. You must have a lot of experience raking.” Now, of course, I was doing the exact same job in exactly the same way, which was the best I could and the only way I knew how. What changed was the viewer, not me or my work. I remember this every time I send out a submission. You don’t know who’s on the other end, the reading end. So, if you’ve done your best work, had it critiqued if possible, made revisions, followed the guidelines meticulously, then you can’t control the reaction of the editor or first reader.
I know I’ve told the story before of a piece I submitted to an anthology many years ago. The piece was not selected. But when I got the scores from the judges, it was more amusing than hurtful. One judge had give the story high marks on all criteria. One judge scored the story right down the middle. And the third judge had given the story all low marks, right down the line. So, what the heck? The wildly different reactions to the exact same story could only be the result of something in the judges themselves. I know from this and other experiences, rejections don’t mean my work is bad. It just means, not here, not now. I also know this because that same story was accepted and published in a different anthology a few years later. Keep writing, keep believing in yourself, keep submitting, keep finding new markets–keep trying. That’s my plan.