Yesterday, I received my very first rejection letter from a journal to which I’d submitted a paper. It reads, in part:

Dear Professor GradMommy [I’m sure I didn’t profess to be a professor!]

We have now received three reviews of your submission to Second Tiered Socicology Journal entitled MS. 09-205. The reviewers all consider this to be an interesting and important topic and one worthy of careful attention and I agree. However, what is being questioned and asked for by reviewers is of sufficient scope and importance that it seems more appropriate to suggest a new beginning rather than engage a revision process. Thus I am sorry to report that we are declining the opportunity to publish the paper in Second Tiered Sociology Journal.

I expected to feel a great sense of personal failure; I am a self-described perfectionist, someone who experiences academic failure only rarely. But I din’t feel that. Apparently all my hard work in the last few months in therapy have actually paid off.

In therapy, I’ve been working really hard at getting rid of black and white thinking, that if one is not perfect, than one must be shit. I’ve lived a long time with the idea that what one DOES is what one IS, therefore if one does what one does poorly, than one is a poor version of what one could be. Over the past few months I don’t know if ‘ve fully let go of that idea, but I have come to the understanding that I am many things, and cannot possibly be perfect at them all. I can’t be an excellent law student, because that would compromise being a good wife and mother. I can’t be an excellent, self-sacrificing mother, because that would compromise being a good grad student. I can’t be an excellent self-sacrificing mother or excellent grad student because that would sacrifice taking care of my physical and mental health. In all cases, I must settle for being good enough.

For example, this last quarter, I made a conscious decision about how much I was going to study for my final exams. We are evaluated on a Restricted Credit/Pass/Honors system, where 1/3 of the class must receive honors, while the remaining 2/3 of the class will probably will get a pass, and no one has to receive restricted credit, but may if the professor chooses to. I decided before finals last quarter that I wouldn’t study extra hard in order to get a Honors grade because what I thought I had to do that would jeopardize my health at that time. I felt burnt out, out of balance, and I didn’t want to repeat old patterns that had surfaced during the end of previous quarters where school was all I did, to the deteriment of my family and myself. I was super-dissapointed when grades came back and of course, I didn’t get H’s (except in the writing class which had effective ended several weeks prior to the end of the quarter, before my decision). But after a day of being sad, I looked back and felt in control.

So with this rejection letter, it feels more like an opportunity to make my work better than anything else. The rejection doesn’t make me feel like a reject. Sure, the language tells me that they think the work is not so great (“what is being questioned and asked for by reviewers is of sufficient scope and importance that it seems more appropriate to suggest a new beginning rather than engage a revision process”) I know the idea is good and just needs some (a lot) more work, work that I want to do and can do. In any case, the work is not connected to how I feel about myself as a person, as a child of God, even as a sociologist. I’m good at what I do, and this process is just going to make me better. For that, I’m grateful.

6 thoughts on “reject

  1. I am a fellow grad student, and I wanted to say I think it is important to recognize how much much articles/theses/books are always works in progress… best of luck continuing the journey with your piece.


  2. Caridad – you are so right, and at some point though, we have to just send them out and see where the chips fall. I’m glad I sent it out, even though it was rejected. I don’t regret that decision at all. I’m going to give myself a deadline, maybe three months or so for revision, and then I’m going to send it out again. It, like me, will never be perfect.


  3. wow. I think I’m waiting for a response from the exact same journal. It is taking them FOREVER to respond. How long did it take?

    just send it somewhere else.


    1. thanks. I submitted it in September. It says it’s supposed to take 6 weeks. I guess that’s a pipe dream. Ah well, the joys of publication (or trying).


  4. Sounds like you’re taking things in stride and steering your own course. A couple months ago, I received a long-awaited response to a grant application (it was about five months of waiting). It was turned down.

    The reviews were uneven: one reviewer was clearly smitten with the project and proposal, recommended it proceed; a couple others reflected quite the opposite (there were five in all I think). In the end, I made my own judgment as to which comments and criticisms were valid and useful, and which were based on their own assumptions, misreadings, or other baggage.

    Mostly, it is a question of finding our best paths, not defining our best selves, nor accepting without measure the views and desires of others to make us and our work into their own image.


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