The crippling fear of rejection is what prevents some writers from ever getting their work out into the world. Although it is an easier life just having your Mum saying “That’s nice, dear” when you show her your work, you are never going to fully progress as a writer until you overcome that fear and go face-to-face with the beast. You’ll likely discover that the beast isn’t quite as terrifying as you first thought.
There are no guarantees in writing. No formulas that guarantee success and certainly no ways to guarantee that your work won’t be rejected. Stephen King was memorably turned down by several publishers for Carrie, but he soldiered on and became one of the all-time best-selling authors. He persevered with the writing and with the novel itself. Many wouldn’t.
Don’t Take it Personally
The key to dealing with rejection and disappointment is not to take it personally. Publishers, agents, newspapers, website and blog editors are strangers looking to find something that works for them, not you. If they had a personal vendetta against you, they would have to be pretty ridiculous people (unless you wrote them a death threat letter after you were rejected – then it might get personal).
Nobody wants to destroy your career, and nobody has the power to do so except you. Rejection is a bump in the road that can be used to drive you forward in your quest to become a better writer. If you are honest with yourself and are willing to make the sacrifices and adjustments required for you to become a better writer, rejection means absolutely nothing.
Having said that, being honest enough to know that the writing is good enough and to keep trying to get it out there is just as important. Sometimes it’s not about your ability, it could be timing, trends or simply because the editor can’t be bothered to read your stuff. Harsh, but true. The quicker you realise that, the quicker you’ll learn not to take it personally and to grow a thicker skin.
Understanding Why You Were Rejected
Not taking rejection to heart is one thing, but being humble enough to admit that the writing isn’t quite good enough – and accepting notes and feedback from agents, publishers and others – is a massive part of the healing process. Sometimes you’ll read a note from a rejection letter and a light bulb will go off in your head…
HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT?
It can incredibly liberating, if you are willing to accept it.
On a personal note, I submitted a screenplay to a competition last year, and paid a few dollars more for a detailed analysis of the script. There were some great points as to what worked, and one key point as to why the script was rejected in the running. That point was that I had set up too many characters in the first act, and that if I concentrated on the three younger characters, the story would gather pace far quicker.
After the initial slump, I quickly realised that he was right, and I went back to the edit. The script went from 107 pages to 95 pages and is a much tighter, livelier and pacier affair as a result. I can’t wait to resubmit it next year. That’s how to turn a negative into a positive.
Learn from Your Mistakes
Even the most seasoned pros make mistakes, it’s all a part of learning. The key is to see where you went wrong and put that right. This could be anything from sending a blog post submission to an editor with spell-checking the article properly to sending a vampire novel manuscript to a children’s publisher. If you can get over the disappointment and the embarrassment, you can dust yourself down and move on. If you’ve done something like the latter, it would make a great blog post for new writers to learn from. We all make mistakes, after all.
The key factors to remember here are:
1) You are going to face rejection at some point
2) Don’t become an angry WHY CAN’T THEY SEE THAT I’M A GENIUS kind of person who everybody hates and nobody will publish
3) Nobody is bullet proof. Rejection hurts and always will.
Roll with the punches and you’ll become a better writer.