I received two rejections this morning. What a relief that was. When I entered a writing contest a couple of weeks ago, I figured I might as well enter as many works as allowed: two short stories and three poems. The problem with that plan was finding three poems to submit. I've written many more short stories that I like than poems that I like.
Even with all the short prose littering my cloud storage, picking the two short stories was pretty easy. I had two that fit the entry guidelines, and they even had a certain thematic Greater Kansas City vibe to them. Like any perfectionist writer (aka, "any writer"), I was editing and revising them up to the deadline, of course, but that was okay. Even if they weren't quite perfect, they are work I was proud to share.
Picking the first poem was pretty easy, too. A poem flowed out of me one night in January. When I came back to read it a few days later it actually read better than I remembered. Normally when I come back to read something I wrote earlier, especially a poem, I despair over my lack of ability, so this poem was a positive aberration. I knew that I wanted to submit the poem that left me feeling like I might actually be able to write poetry every once in a while.
The other two poem slots were tricky to fill. Of the poems I've written in the recent past, there were two that folks I had cajoled into reading them thought were pretty good. I considered one too simple and trite to amount to much, but people I respect disagreed with me. The other struck me as gibberish that missed the mark I had set for myself, but a lot of smart and honest people told me they found it brilliant. I figured I might as well submit those two poems as the least bad of my vast reserve of not-so-good poetry. I told my wife that I would question merits of the entire competition if the gibberish won anything.
Happily, the gibberish did not win. Both of my weak poems were rejected this morning, before anything else I submitted was rejected. I don't doubt that everything I sent will ultimately be rejected--after all, many are called but few are chosen. Even if more rejections come tomorrow, I am pleased that the two poems I didn't think as much of were rejected first. Maybe I know something about how to evaluate my own work after all.
Sometimes affirmation comes in the form of rejection.