I just received a rejection via email. It was likely the nicest rejection I've ever received, so kind and concerned about my hard work and the value of my ideas that I almost felt sad that I had been the source of such discomfort to the person who wrote the email. Almost.
I am sorry that my proposal was rejected, but here's the thing: it hardly matters. Oh, sure, it would have been grand to see my name attached to an article in a prestigious magazine. I love to write and will continue writing no matter what, but it's also gratifying to have someone send you a cheque when your words hit the page. Our culture values money and payment for effort; rightly or wrongly, work plus payment makes you a professional. Money is an indication that someone is interested enough in what you have to say that they will give you cold, hard cash for the privilege of having you say it. It's quite an ego boost.
Most of what I write comes from research into questions which follow me around, questions which I feel compelled to explore, research and document. I take that research and write about it. Sometimes, I'm excited enough about my discoveries that, when I put pen to paper or clank away on keyboard to laptop, I want to share what I've learned with a larger audience. Sometimes, those explorations lead me to dead ends. I write about that, too, because, in the long run, that's what's important-the exploration, the writing and the sharing. Everything else-recognition, monetary compensation and that "be-careful-what-you-ask-for-it-might-come-back-to-bite-you" ego boost-is really, not that important.
The brilliant idea I had? The one that was rejected so kindly, so mindfully? I'm going to explore it anyway. I will likely post about it here at some point, but perhaps not. I don't know and it really doesn't matter. What matters is that I have a passion which inspires me and I'm on a never ending journey. Doing what you love is a wonderful thing. So is a cheque in the mail. Sometimes, the two coalesce. Sometimes not.