As a writer, I've received my share of rejection letters from literary magazines. I found another in my inbox last week. "Strongly considered," it said. "I like your ideas and writing." But still a rejection. They're never fun, but I've learned to take comfort from the "good" rejections. Oxymoron, you say? Not at all.
Though most rejections are form letters, many magazines have tiered rejections. The standard runs along the lines of "This piece is not right for our magazine/does not suit our current needs." The more polite ones add something like "We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere."
The same magazine might have a better version, however: "We really enjoyed your work. Please try us again." Or "Nicely written. Do try us again." Those last three words are the key. When magazines ask you to try them again, most really mean what they say. It's not as if they're hurting for submissions. If they ask for yours, there was something about your piece they liked, or some potential they saw. This of course doesn't mean you should inundate them with every story you've ever written. Follow submission guidelines and be professional, but also allow yourself a little pride for your hard-earned "good" rejection.
Treat these positive negatives as clues in the riddle of publication. One editor wrote that my story came close, and invited me to try again. So I did. The second rejection declared that my "worthy" piece made it through several rounds of elimination, and they looked forward to further submissions. My third try? "Your manuscript has been accepted for publication." Yeah!
So make what use you can of those inevitable rejections, and never give up.