Billing themselves as “the most prestigious journal (judged by acceptance rate),” the Journal of Universal Rejection is founded upon the principle of rejection. They solicit submissions of all types and deny all, claiming a 0% acceptance rate. Their archive of back issues begins at March 2009 and goes through December 2010, with each publication empty (except the final one, which was lost through a server crash and is only presumed empty).
As composers, we must become inured to rejection. Failure isn’t just something to accept, but rather is something that we should seek. The only way for an artist to continually create work that avoids failure is to create work that never truly succeeds. And when we present our works to the outside world, even the most successful among us will find that these works appeal to only a very limited number of people. In a world where classical music of all sorts accounts for a mere 2% of all recording sales and experimental music sales are a small fragment of that, rejection is a simple fact of life for composers.
With this in mind, I found something heartening about the certainty promised by the Journal of Universal Rejection. I could propose an article without wondering whether the results were a fair commentary on my shortcomings. If everyone meets the same fate, then I could court rejection and enjoy it. As the Journal website suggests, “Merely submitting to it may be considered a badge of honor.”
With the assistance of an online generator of Postmodern jargon (hosted at my alma mater, the University of Chicago), I crafted an abstract for a proposed study. I won’t replicate the wording of it here, because it actually sounded impressively academic and if I did you might think that I had worked to create such well-obfuscated writing. I just went to that link, chose from a few drop-down menus, and voilà, an article proposal on normative values. I then sent this abstract in as my submission, accompanied by the following note: “I have pasted below an abstract for an article that I hope you will reject forthwith. The fact that it was created utilizing an online postmodern sentence generator should ease your decision to reject the following.”
As the hours passed, I found myself worrying that since I hadn’t truly created an original idea, perhaps they wouldn’t consider my idea worthy of rejection. Yes, I worried that the Journal of Universal Rejection wouldn’t reject me. I’m not sure what that says about my general state of mind, but it surely can’t be good. Fortunately, later that day, I received an email with a very personal note denying my submission. My favorite part of the note was where the editor told me that he had “lost precious sleep” over the decision. This struck me as most exceptional since I had sent it in the morning and it was rejected in early afternoon. Perhaps I interrupted a nap?