The truth: rejection is not necessary to the growth of the writer.
Why do we think it is?
Because every good writer has been rejected? Because it happens more frequently than acceptance? Because those who submit regularly or obsessively, maybe trying to collect a bunch of rejections in a year, share with the world the pay off of finally landing a piece of writing somewhere?
But here’s some more truth: acceptance is not necessary to the growth of the writer.
Why do we think it is?
This one is a bit easier to answer.
Because it aligns with your hope and belief that your writing is good/valuable/necessary. Because it advances your goals or career as a writer. Because validation feels great.
Neither acceptance or rejection is instructive to the writer.
A rejection replaces meaningful conversations with an editor that could lead to growth. Often, because time is money, and very few places that publish writing have much of either (And because you can never have enough, the places that do have both time and money do not want to spend it on work that needs work.), the rejection has little to do with the writing itself. Perfectly good poems, stories, and essays are rejected because there’s no more space; there’s someone with more visibility who submitted a piece of equal standing; there’s a bias in style or subject matter; there’s a flaw of some kind in the writing that would take energy to fix.
An acceptance is the stamp of approval that your growth has resulted in a successful piece of writing according to that editor or group of readers and editors. This is a bit undermined by another simple truth: you are more likely to get an acceptance the more time, energy, and money you have to send your work to publishers.
Since you are unlikely to continue working on this piece of writing after an acceptance, you no longer can grow as a writer or human through that piece.
The main difference then, between acceptance and rejection, in terms of the writer’s growth is the budding of an audience you are building for your work. Or not building in the case of rejection.
As soon as you make the decision to publish a piece of writing, you’ve decided that it is deserving of an audience outside of yourself. Given the internet, you can start building an audience immediately. In a sense you are your own editor, accepting the work. There is a lot of power in this decision.
When you give someone else the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the work, not only did it take the additional time and energy and some cases money, but your chances of interacting with someone who has read your work outside of the editor who accepted it in the first place is limited.
You can draw two conclusions from this. If you want to submit your work to someone else for acceptance or rejection it should be someone you trust. Maybe someone who has expressed interest in your work. Or you can put your time, energy, money into building your own audience and outlet for your work by accepting the work and publishing it yourself.
This is easier done with poetry.
The key is to grow. Growth happens in the process of reading and writing, learning and reflecting. Acceptance or rejection is some indication of the success of this growth.
There isn’t one way to grow, one set of experiences or education more likely to encourage growth. Just as there is not one way or place to publish your writing.