Comfort in a Cookie

You Are Not What You EatFor an exercise in my fiction workshop, each student was given a fortune cookie and asked to interact with it. We interacted: we broke them, read the fortunes, nibbled on the cookie chunks or chomped them down in one bite. The exercise was about magical thinking in our own lives and our readers’ lives, and how stories so often rely upon the magic of symbols, the mystical confluence of coincidences. Despite of our capacity for logic, we often attach special meaning to mundane things.

I wanted to resist that superstitious behavior. I am, after all, a pretentious English Major, cold and unfeeling, so I instinctively dismiss all fortunes found in cookies, or any other bourgeois baked goods.

In this class, we have also discussed publication (and lack thereof) at great length. “Writing is an industry of rejection,” the instructor has pointed out. While we try to have thick skin, rejections pile up and start to hurt. So when I read my fortune, I will admit that for a moment I gave into magical thinking:

You will soon be receiving some good written news.

It could have been written just for me. Why not? Why can’t I find a little comfort in a cookie? Most writers know to take rejections in stride, but it’s difficult to take for so long, so why not admit that I wanted some factory-produced strip of paper to let me know that if I wait just a moment longer, I’ll get a big publication in a well-known journal?

After class yesterday, I checked my email, and was surprised to find a response from a literary journal I’d sent a collection of environmental poems to back in December. My heart skipped a beat as I read the email quickly, and to my utter amazement, the journal rejected the poems.

Maybe you thought for a moment that I got a big publication. I’d hoped so, too. Maybe I’ve just demonstrated how easily I can connect an arbitrary object (a fortune cookie) with the right combination of values and aspirations lurking in you, the reader. Or maybe not. Perhaps I’ve manipulated your own experience with rejection, especially if you’re a writer. This is an industry of rejection, and good fortune doesn’t correlate with publication. I’ll keep submitting, and I’ll keep writing and revising, and every now and then I’ll allow myself the comfort of dreaming that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some good written news.

Fellow writers, how do you cope with rejections? Or have you fortuitously gotten any publications lately? Let me know in the comments, and spread the writerly love.

-jk

7 thoughts on “Comfort in a Cookie

  1. Aeryn Rudel

    Every writer copes with rejection differently, but I do think one of the best cures for the rejection blues is to commiserate with other writers. Rejection is universal, no matter how good you are or how successful. Coming to that realization does take the sting out of it some. Also, once you get a few publications under your belt and the validation that comes with it, rejection gets easier. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep collecting those rejection scars–they only make you tougher. 🙂

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  2. thelizzysaurus

    Personally, I enjoy taking out my frustration on objects of false hope in the face of rejection, usually on a scale of about ten to one. For instance, in your circumstances, I would have to weigh the excitement that fortune gave me (in grams) to then multiply by ten and hold a fortune cookie bonfire with said weight in cardboard cookie substance, yelling “that’ll show ’em” to either reluctant (fortune cookie-loving) friends that I dragged with me or, in most cases, God. Just a few weeks ago, I was expected good news because pleasant spring weather gave me a general abundance of hope, so, when things got me down later, I went and strip mined a mountain for coal. I’d assume planet Earth got the message.

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    1. keeneshort Post author

      Thank you for your comment, The Lizzysaurus! I can only imagine what kind of fury you unleashed on God for getting rid of all the other dinosaurs, but at least you have the creationists to thank for storing all their bones in their museums next to the skeleton of Jesus, which he left behind during Resurrection after flailing fleshily up into Heaven (Mark 45:65-43). I may have to try this method of yours, though I tend to become angry at my Submittable account when I get a rejection, and I don’t suppose they’d allow me to keep submitting if I went to their main office with a very large axe and began insinuating unrealistic things about their parents.

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      1. thelizzysaurus

        1. A “your mom” comment done well should inspire admiration beyond any capacity for anger.
        2. Instead, I would suggest launching a competitor site and allowing capitalist magic (dressed up for the ball and in its pumpkin carriage) to get back at Submittable and take it down completely. I would suggest a title along the lines of “Protestable” or “Disobeyable.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. keeneshort Post author

        Or perhaps something combing the two, such as “Disobeyable–like your mom!” followed by diabolical laughter and claps of thunder (from the magical mystical hands of capitalism clapping for a job well done).

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