Whether we like it or not, ever so often, like an unwelcome houseguest, rejections creep upon us. It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career or the number of books you have published; rejections lurk around us writers like shadows. Even after having nine books in the market, every time that I receive a rejection letter, it hurts and stinks.
That said, no one promised us that we’d only have success as writers. In our own ways, we all have to find better ways to manage the rejections we receive. Here are a few tips on tough love that help me work through rejections.
1. Let the drama begin: Upon receiving the dreaded, “Sorry, we cannot accept your submission at this time,” take 30-45 minutes or even a day to bitch, mourn, cry, throw a tantrum. But after a certain reasonable amount of time has passed, get yourself together.
2. The morning after: Remind yourself that you write because you want to and not everybody will like what you write. Here is how I see it: there are only 24 hours in a day. You can spend that crying and moaning OR by taking charge of what needs to be done next.
3. New day, new attitude: for every rejection that I get, I send out the rejected piece to three to four new publications the next day. This helps me divert my attention, turn something negative into positive, and fills me up with hope. Ultimately, the one who emerges victorious and gets published, not almost published, is the person who didn’t give up.
4. Get over it: writing is so subjective. There are so many reasons for rejections. Maybe the piece wasn’t a fit for that particular issue for which you sent in your work, or it didn’t work for one of the editors, or there were several submissions with similar voices. While it’s hard to not personalize a rejection, it’s not impossible either if you have the right attitude. Surround yourself with people who will bring you up, not bring you down.
5. Be friends with humility: I once mentored an aspiring writer, who after receiving his first rejection letter started swearing at the editor of the magazine. And without any evidence, he decided to accuse the editor of nepotism. Unfortunately, some of this guy’s friends encouraged his behavior and fed his ego. As a net result, he spent weeks loathing people he didn’t know and chose to never submit to this magazine. Guess who lost out in all of this? The arrogant writer.
6. Lesson learned: Every experience, if we are open to it, teaches us a lesson. Maybe, just maybe, your article, essay, poem, or book just wasn’t ready and could use some more work. Looking inward and learning from our rejections is equally important. I have had pieces/books that have been acquired overnight. I have slush piles of poems/essays/articles that have never been accepted. And there is that third pile where I have reworked the rejected submissions and resubmitted them or sent them to new outlets and they were published. Never give up.
One thing I remind myself often is that rejections are a part of writerly-life and they shouldn’t come in the way of motivation. There are sunny days and rainy days in a writer’s life. But it is up to us how we deal with rejections. Will you allow them to take over your professional life and kill your ability to write and alter your confidence or will you emerge victorious despite their presence? The decision is in your hands.