Rejection is brutal. It really, really hurts.
But if you’re a writer, it’s par for the course. When you get those standard form rejection letters that don’t even hint at why your story wasn’t accepted, you begin to question whether you have what it takes. You ask yourself why you’re putting yourself through this torture.
Who wants to read your stories anyway, right?
I feel you. I just got three more rejections for my short stories in my Inbox this morning. Just before I wrote this post, I also got an email from another agent rejecting my query for my novel.
These rejections made me quit writing several times before in my life. But not now.
Because I’m a writer, damnit! When I decided more than a year ago to go after my writing dreams, I immediately created a coping mechanism to deal with the rejections that I knew would come.
Let me tell you, it works.
The first thing I had to tell myself was this: every ‘no’ that I get brings me one step closer to my ‘yes.’ When I look at it that way, I’m almost thankful for the rejections. Almost.
So, how do I handle rejection? I’m glad you asked.
How To Deal With Rejection
First, you have to realize why being rejected hurts so much: you think it’s personal. I get that. As writers, we put our souls into our writing so it’s normal to think a rejection is a personal thing.
But it’s not personal. The writing field is a subjective one. I do my research before I submit my writing anywhere. I try to match my stories to audiences I think will enjoy my work. But what I feel is a good match, an editor may not for any number of reasons.
When one of my stories is rejected I set a timer and give myself 30 minutes to pout. When the timer goes off, I go into Rejection Survivalist mode.
The Rejection Survival List for the Rejection Survivalist (see what I did there?)
- Take the story that was rejected and send it out to two more online journals. If it’s a rejection from an agent, find two more agents to send it to.
- Begin — or continue — working on a new writing project. The best way to believe in yourself is to keep writing. Yes, you have to believe in yourself. If you don’t no one else will. So keep writing.
- Remember you are not alone. Every famous writer has been rejected lots of times before making it in the publishing world (more on that in a minute).
- Meditate on this quote from Napoleon Hill: “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
By the time I’ve gotten to number four, that rejection letter has lost its sting. I also keep these fun facts handy and look at them any time I feel a pity party coming on:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — rejected 14 times.
A Wrinkle in Time — rejected 29 times.
Carrie — rejected over 30 times
A Time to Kill — rejected 45 times
Ray Bradbury was rejected 800 times before his first story was published.
When George Orwell submitted Animal Farm, he was told “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
If they didn’t give up, then I don’t have the right to give up. Neither do you.
There you have it. It’s no magic pill, but it works. Feel free to use this list and modify it to suit your needs.
Onward, writing comrades!