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A Writer's Quip: On Adding to the List of Rejection

I doubt that the editor I was emailing could write the way I do. But that wasn’t his job. His was to see if I could write the way they do, at the media company he needs writers for. So here we go, back to it with a deadline he assigned as a tryout. Back to the plain, staid, boiled down copy that I’d since moved miles on from. Alas, that was the test, one from big-time national media calling for writers to step into line rather than stand out.

Well, welcome newcomer, to the long and occasionally distinguished roster of my rejections over the course of my life. You are the latest, just hours fresh, actually. Thank you for being direct without being demeaning, and for delivering on it promptly. Maybe it’s a byproduct of strictly virtual exchanges — from application on down the pipe to the end of the line — but the sting stings much less now. Lots less than I remember when first I was new to this field, when I was less self-assured, and far less talented.

None of what you called for, of course, was my style at all. To write succinctly and in brief. It hadn’t been any of the things that I’d done for eons now. Yes, straight news writing is the building block and essence of the art and the craft of it. And I heard the words of William Zinsser ringing in my head as I went. I’m sorry (to you and Zinsser). I’ve already evolved in this craft as a writer, and those building blocks — and rules — since have become walls I’ve climbed and bounded over.

For what it’s worth, and while you still have patience reading this, it’s taken years to find that voice in writing for me, the one that speaks to you here, the one your company didn’t want or have a need for, but were willing to entertain for bits further, to see how or even whether I could channel and down-throttle to the spectrum you asked for.

Again, sorry to you, my latest rejecting editor. What you asked for, I no longer carry anymore. The list grows, and now I’m proud you’re part of it. Those of my life’s small and grand and great many rejections. But accompanying it, as I’ve come more and more to find, each one arrives as a reminder: I’ll keep taking stabs at it, and I’ll carry forward the fewest regrets that I can.

The hour you asked from me, it came and it left. You’ve moved on, and I have as well, too. It — your assignment — just wasn’t right for me. I break rules. Write in incomplete sentences. The plain Jane and staid — that’s not how I write or think anymore. And not so for so long. So, welcome newcomer, the next name on the grand list of rejections. And with yours, I carry one less regret.

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist and journalist. Follow his work at Great Pacific Review and on


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