You slave and slave: outlining, drafting, editing, rewriting, getting beta reads, re-writing, steeping, re-writing, and finally submitting. Some time passes. Maybe a lot of time passes. Maybe “time begins seriously to pass”. Finally, you (if you’re lucky) get a rejection. You feel rejected; you are dejected, you’re not respected, your work wasn’t elected. Even worse sometimes you don’t even get rejected, your work just vanishes into oblivion. You’re a failure.
What you are actually are is a success. You outlined – you intentionally gave structure to a piece. You drafted – you found the time or made time in your life to do the thing you care about, writing. You edited – you worked to make your piece better, putting all the tools at your disposal into improving your work. You got some beta readers – success you not only pursued your vision, you got some other people involved and took a risk by showing your work to someone else. You rewrote – success you’re an actual writer, because as Hemmingway said: “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Steeping – success you set your piece aside for some time so you could return to it with fresh eyes. You rewrote again – success you’ve demonstrated that you really care about the craft, that you want to make something truly great and you’re willing to put in all the work. Submitting – success you took a risk and put your piece out there. You put out something that feels like a distillation of soul into word form. And you took the chance that what is really a part of you isn’t a fit for the publication you chose.
A lot of writers never get this far.
The next big success is you pick yourself up and you start on something else. Hemmingway himself moved to Chicago and tried to make a living writing. He failed and had to go back to the newspaper. That’s right Hemmingway, Ernest Hemmingway, failed, couldn’t get his pieces accepted, couldn’t make a living writing. But he picked himself up and he kept trying.
So your work got rejected. You’ve succeeded. Writing isn’t one thing. It’s a lot of things, with a lot of steps. If we say that getting a piece published has 11 steps (outlining, drafting, editing, rewriting, beta reads, rewriting, steeping, rewriting, submission, publication) you succeeded at 10 of them. You’re 91% of the way there.