Real time rejection

A few hours ago I received a rejection and right now my feelings are intense and raw and all over the place. Given this is a blog about writing and this is something all writers go through at some stage in their careers, I thought I’d share. Just for lols. Don’t know why I wrote that. The last thing I feel like right now is lol-ing. Just to be clear, this is a lol-free post.

To date I’ve received sixteen rejections, all from literary agents. This was different. It was an application to study an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. It’s arguably the best course of its kind in the country and as such, is incredibly competitive. That doesn’t help. Every year, around 300 people apply for thirty places. That doesn’t help either. To not even be offered an interview is a kick in the teeth.

Disclaimer: This is not a definitive guide to what rejection feels like. My experience of rejection is just that. Yours might be different. Or not. This might make you feel reassured. Or not. It is what it is.

Warning: what follows is self-indulgent. I don’t care but you might. If it’s going to bother you, stop reading now and look at some pictures of cats in socks or something (which is what I’ll probably do once I’ve got this off my chest and cheered up a bit tbh. See you on YouTube *waves*).

1. The overriding feeling is one of misery

I’m a optimist. My glass is half full. Three-quarters, on a good day. But right now I’m about as fucked off as it’s possible to be. I can see no joy, no fun and no point. The glass is empty.

2. Everyone gets rejected but so what?

It doesn’t help that JK Rowling and that Booker Prize Winner could fill the Bodleian with their rejection letters. Someone’s just told me I’m no good and at the minute that’s all I can think about.

3. I will never get used to it.

I’ve been rejected sixteen times already. It doesn’t get easier. Only yesterday, I told a friend that if I didn’t get on this course it wouldn’t matter. I’d take it and move on. I wouldn’t be devastated. I was wrong.

4. It’s not the worst thing in the world.

I’m not THAT unaware. I’ve got some sense of perspective. I’m just really, really, bloody hacked off, that’s all.

5. I wish I hadn’t told anyone I was applying for the course.

This simply means that the misery is exacerbated by an extra layer of humiliation and shame. Why did I tell people if I didn’t think I’d get accepted? I knew the chances were slim, but on some level I guess I thought I’d get through. Otherwise why would I have applied in the first place?

Now I just look like a flaky idiot with ideas above her station. Or arrogant. I honestly don’t know which is worse.

6. I’m too upset to cry.

There’s a numbness. I’ve welled up a few times but crying seems like such a pathetic, pointless thing to do. How will it help? Exactly. I’m angry at my own stupid, indulgent self-pity. But it hurts. It hurts because it mattered.

7. I’m genuinely scared it means I’m a crap writer

I thought my application was solid. My references were excellent. Yet the email said ‘Unfortunately the programme you applied for is highly competitive and the application did not meet the standard of other applications within that field’.

‘Did not meet the standard’. Wtf does that mean?

I want it to mean that my undergraduate degree wasn’t enough (I mean, what’s wrong with a 2:2 in drama and education from Roehampton Institute?). I’d rather it was because I’m too old. Or too white. Because I’m a mum, or a woman. That I’m too short or have the wrong hair. Anything, anything at all, but not because my writing wasn’t good enough.

I have a terrible feeling it’s because my writing wasn’t good enough.

This would be very bad news. Very bad news indeed, because I really, really, really want to be an author. Why can’t they see that? It’s so unfair. (In case you’re wondering, this is ironic bad writing, on purpose. For lols. God.)

For the sake of sanity, I’m going to choose to believe I was unsuccessful on the basis of poor clothing choices while I filled in the online application.

8. Except I’m a sucker for punishment.

So I’m going to appeal.

It’s likely to result in another rejection. Most appeals do. But as painful as it is, I need to know why I didn’t at least get to the interview stage.

I’ll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in front of the fire, stare at the flames and drink beer for a few hours. There might be crying.

This is what rejection feels like.


13 thoughts on “Real time rejection”

    • Ah thanks for this Nikki, really appreciate it. You know, all the above, it doesn’t last long. Maybe a day or so but no more. I just wanted to capture it while it was happening because what can I do with all these crazy emotions if I can’t write about them?? It’d be such a waste!

  1. Dear Ann, you have every right to feel upset and frustrated – if you didn’t, it would be odd. Writing requires emotion so you had an emotional investment in this course.
    Modern research has shown that only 20% of learning happens in a classroom, with 70% occurring ‘on the job’ and the last 10% through peer to peer.

    So IMHO, this course would have been useful but it’s not the panacea and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from persuing your writing!

    Happy to chat as I received my fair share of rejection with my writing… but that gives you the other all-important ‘R’ in writing, which is Resilience!

    Your pal always
    Timmy x

    • Thanks Tim, so great to hear from you as always. And of course today is a new day and everything feels different. Really appreciate your support and your feedback xxx

  2. Lovely Ann… so sorry you’re having a horrible time. You really are a shining light of positivity and loveliness and an all round fab person x x

    • Also, I’m really not having a horrible time. This was a blip. It happens. I’ve chosen a ridiculously hard career path with no guarantees and plenty of knock backs. The pain goes away quickly and life goes on. Thanks so much for your lovely words though, your support means a lot xxx

  3. Oh bless you. I stumbled across your blog through (I think) Emma Darwin’s links etc… (slightly better than watching kitten videos as far as procrastination devices…). How did the appeal go (if it did?) I feeeeeeeeel your pain. I really do. I see your pain and times it by the power of a gazillion – if you want to get competitive 😉 *cheeky wink* Debs

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. Nope, the appeal didn’t work. No matter though, I’ve moved on. Have rewritten my MS, am doing a final read through and edit then I’ll be good to go and submit to agents. It’s a whole new chapter (no pun intended!)

  4. I feel your pain. I’m a mature student aged 60 and am in my 3rd year at UEA – degree in Literature and Creative Writing. I was over the moon to get an interview for the MA this week in Prose Fiction. Then came the email telling me my ‘writing showed promise but was not MA standard’. This came as a huge shock as all my creative writing on the degree has resulted in firsts and the piece I submitted with the MA application was double marked last year at 8O%. My mark was the highest out of 28 students. So right now the 3 years of learning feels it has been a waste of time.

  5. Hi,

    I just got rejected yesterday from a postgraduate certificate in Creative Writing. So, not even a Masters. I too was rejected without explanation and no interview. What made matters worse was that my own sister did the Masters version of the course and passed with distinction only a handful of years ago. I was stunned by my rejection because my writing over the last decade has been highly praised by significant entities. The horrible thing about this sort of rejection is that I have no idea what it’s basis was. Did my referees give me bad references for some unfathomable reason. The course is still being advertised, so it’s not because there was a lot of competition. I was paying for the course out of personal savings that took me about five years to accumulate in difficult circumstances. Or perhaps I was rejected because I come from a scientific background with distinctions in two Masters courses, the highest mark on my undergraduate Pure Maths degree, and a highly original and technically challenging PhD. I will never know the reason I was rejected, but in reality it would be ridiculous to believe it was anything to do with my writing ability. As Lord Acton said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely– or words to that effect. The problem is that the people making the decisions on who they want on their course of absolute power to make their decisions. There was, I was overqualified when they couldn’t understand why someone who’d written so many novels (over twenty) would want to do a postgraduate certificate in Creative Writing. The truth of the matter is, I was unlikely to learn anything significant on the Craft of Writing, but I was more interested in the social aspects of the course and setting up connections before attempting to publish all my novels over a two-year period on Amazon. Well, I just thought I would add a comment to this blog. Have a nice day!


Leave a Comment