I Framed a Rejection Email and It’s the Best $5 I’ve Ever Spent

published Oct 11, 2023
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Credit: Emma Fiala

It’s natural to solely celebrate accomplishments, and your home probably reflects that mindset. Trophies and diplomas shimmer on shelves and hang on walls, while smaller wins like an expensive sofa purchased on sale or a rare item sourced from an antique store are routinely mentioned to first-time visitors. Everyone loves to revel in a job well done, and honestly, I’m not an exception. But let me tell you something I did recently that’s different, but still a conversation-starter in its own right: I put a rejection email on my wall.

There was a white wall above my work desk for months, and I never quite knew what to do with it. I wanted art to fill it in the same way that I sought out throw pillows for my sofa and cups for my kitchen. When I moved into a new apartment at the beginning of the year, I had the luxury of starting entirely from scratch — all I really had with me in the way of furniture was an old desk, a chair, and a dresser. I slowly filled up this home with stuff that teetered between clear practicality and obvious aesthetics, celebrating the accomplishment of being a woman who had the privilege of making this happen on her own. 

And when it became time to fill the open spot above my desk, I laughed at the idea that first came to mind. 

Credit: Kelly Dawson

Years ago, when I was still coming into my stride as a writer, I applied for a job at Roxane Gay’s since-folded magazine. I didn’t get the position, but in the rejection email she sent me, she wrote that she thought I was “immensely talented.” Roxane Gay! A New York Times best-selling, expert-shade-throwing, writer extraordinaire was giving me a compliment. And even though it was layered into a sad feedback sandwich, I still took a big bite. Whenever I needed encouragement to pitch a story idea, continue with a draft, or generally push on as a writer in a screen-obsessed landscape, I thought of those two words from Roxane. So it’s no wonder that framing that email seemed like the best solution for the wall above my desk.

I only like to drop money on art I’ve kept in an online shopping cart for at least three months and then pair that with art I found on sale. So, I splurged on a Rifle Paper Co. framed piece I’d kept an eye on for years, and then bought two blank frames from Target. I filled the first one with an Etsy download and the second with Roxane’s rejection email, and got them both printed on cardstock at a local shop. The entire process, from picking up the prints to hanging them on my wall, took about 30 minutes (with traffic included). And the best part? The rejection email hangs proudly on my wall for all of $5. 

Art can be anything that’s meaningful, and you should seek to fill your walls with displays that matter to you. Ticket stubs from concerts you loved, a receipt from a beloved restaurant, a postcard from a dear friend, and even a rejection email can all be spotlighted if you so please. And if you also go the route of rejection, I’ll tell you this: It’s been a great motivator, too.