Any writer will tell you that rejection is as much a part of the game as procrastination, self-loathing, or em dashes. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you might secretly suspect that the lauded writers who insist on Twitter that they deal with rejection constantly are just pandering to us plebs. Luckily, one brave(/dead) author is willing to give us some proof. Nobel Laureate William Faulkner (probably unwittingly) did all aspiring writers a solid by tracking his submissions to literary magazines for a year.
The chart, which is part of the University of Virginia Library’s collection, catalogues Faulkner’s 94 submissions to seven magazines from 1930 to ’31. Of those, he placed a total of 12 stories. To be clear, that’s a lot of yeses! But it’s also a lot of nos.
According to an article in The Mississippi Quarterly from 1977, Faulkner submitted to The Saturday Evening Post (one of the periodicals on the chart) 32 times from 1930 to ’32—including one which he submitted three separate times (with revisions, presumably).
This isn’t the only example we have of Faulkner’s failure: in addition to being a terrible postman, he was also—by his own estimation—an unsuccessful screenwriter. In a letter to Jack Warner in 1945 begging to be let out of his contract, he wrote:
I have spent three weeks doing work (trying to do it) which was not my forte and which I was not equipped to do, and therefore I have mis-spent time which as a 47 year old novelist I could not afford to spend.
If it sounds like I’m making fun of Faulkner here, let me assure you that all of this makes his literary accomplishments much more impressive to me. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that William Faulkner is the Rejection Daddy we need right now.
Hey, it’s not the Nobel, but I think he’d appreciate the sentiment.