Before I had opened the email, I had had the usual sense of foreboding, the fear of rejection. But now, as I read the message concerning the rejection of my paper, I felt a sense of sheer disbelief. I had to read through it again to make sure that it was really real, that the words I had passed through were constructed in the form of a terse dismissal of my efforts.
Why was I so surprised at this outcome for my paper? Was it pure ego? I don’t believe that this is the case. The sense of shock and, yes, outrage, at the rejection was great not only because of ego, but because of my belief in my project. I feel that I am studying one of the most important aspects of the Victorian period and to have my work devalued by others, relegated to the status of the unimportant, the unwanted, is a big blow to my belief.
At once, the feverish thoughts began to assail my consciousness. I wondered if I could not write a proper abstract for my paper, if I had made some great error in my submission. I wondered why the recruiters for the conference could not see the importance of my work. I wondered if my project really was useless, good for nothing. All at once, in a paradox of thought, Ego collided with feelings of inadequacy.
As a researcher who has not completed a PhD, and as a creative writer, I have had rejections before. I have had my poetry rejected and also a work of scholarship which I conducted, which had formed the basis of my undergraduate dissertation in English Literature. The rejections had hurt at the time, but I had eventually managed to get the article published in a peer-reviewed, online journal, a sufficiently respectable forum. The poetry I had never attempted to get published again. I had decided to publish myself on my blog, so that I could share it with others while retaining control of it.
The rejection hurts because it feels like someone is putting their hand over my mouth, stopping my message from going out in the world, the message that I feel is so important that it can change the way that people in this country think about their history. The rejection hurts because I feel I have been misunderstood, because what I am working on is of special significance. The rejection hurts because it sows the seeds of doubt in my belief of the project I am working on.
Rejections may hurt, but rejections cannot stop someone who strives. I will remember my rejection. I will work on my project. I will bring it to the eyes of other scholars and transform their understanding of the Victorians and of our history in this country. And the same people that have rejected my paper will one day be compelled to read what I have wrought. Because, in my field of study, it really is that important.