Recently, I was fortunate enough to have an essay I wrote rejected by a well-known writing publication. It was unfortunate the magazine did not wish to publish my piece, although I did receive some generous and thoughtful feedback. The fortunate part of the rejection arrived in the mail only a few weeks later. The mass generated letter addressed to me personally essentially read: We recognize you to be a professional writer, and for that reason we are offering you the professional writer’s discount on our magazine subscription rate.
I have long been trying to crack the code to becoming a professional writer, and am still working on it to this day. It’s not as if there’s a universal club you have to gain membership to in order to call yourself a writer. In fact, writers may be the least likely people to join an organized club, preferring as they do to work in solitude and have as much unstructured free time to manipulate at will. This runs contrary to what most writers desire to achieve through the act of writing, which is not just to uncover a greater meaning, but also to gain a sense of connectedness and belonging.
It’s hard to know how to identify and belong amongst a group of people as scattered and unstructured as writers. So on that day when I received the marketing form letter in the mail telling me “you are a writer, keep this statement for tax-deductible purposes,” I didn’t view it with my usual dose of cynicism. I saw it as a sales pitch for sure, a kind of consolation prize, but one I was willing to buy. After all, I had put my work out there in the world, it was read, it was rejected, but in return I received a little bit of validation: you are a writer, you take your work seriously, keep trying.
Kathryne Lim is a first-year MFA student in Poetry at The University of New Mexico.