Yesterday I got the nicest rejection letter ever. I had submitted a short story a couple of weeks ago to an online publication. I saw the response email in my inbox, and I was all prepared for one of the generic “Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately…” letters all writers have grown accustomed to seeing.

Instead I got a personal note from the editor saying how much he liked the story, but he had to reject it because it was more of a ghost story than the type of Lovecraft story he was looking for, but he was really sorry to have to do that. Seriously, here’s an excerpt: “So I hope that you will consider sending me something along those lines [more Lovecraftian] soon, because you are the kind of author that I enjoy reading.”

Damn. Talk about taking the sting out of rejection. However, as much as it boosted my ego, I can’t help but wonder how helpful the letter really was. Writers need rejection and criticism. It’s the only way we can get better at our craft. If a story gets rejected it forces us to go back to it, dissect it, and staple it back together in some sort of improved way. While the standard, generic rejection letters don’t offer much advice, this super nice rejection letter didn’t either.

I’m not saying he should have sent it. No, please send me more like that. My ego loves the attention. But I know my story wasn’t perfect. I can’t help but wonder what he would have wanted improved or revised if he had accepted it.

The letter was a wonderful distraction, but it was only temporary. So bring on the pain you editors and slush pile readers out there! I can take it. We writers can take it. We need to if we’re going to become better writers.