It can be a hard thing to deal with. When it comes to writing, you have opportunities for rejection around every corner. Show your friend your story and they laugh? Rejected! Submit a poem and receive a “no thank you”? Rejected! Your boyfriend says it’s over and forgets to return your favorite fluffy hoodie? Rejected! That doesn’t have anything to do with writing, but other types of rejection can intermingle and makes things THAT much harder to deal with. But who cares! Be it boyfriend or publisher, there are other books in the library (see what I did there? Like, fish in the sea? Ya, I know, I can be clever sometimes).
Anyways, you get the point. Rejection just comes with the territory when you’re a writer and it can be really hard to handle sometimes. I myself have been rejected numerous times, and I die a little inside every time. But my smile stays plastered to my face, because there’s always the chance that I won’t be rejected sometime, and I have to act happy! *smiles creepily at the screen*
On the subject of rejection, author David Mitchell once said,
“I got a rejection letter from an editor at HarperCollins, who included a report from his professional reader. This report shredded my first-born novel, laughed at my phrasing, twirled my lacy pretensions around and gobbed into the seething mosh pit of my stolen clichés. As I read the report, the world became very quiet and stopped rotating. What poisoned me was the fact that the report’s criticisms were all absolutely true. The sound of my landlady digging in the garden got the world moving again. I slipped the letter into the trash…knowing I’d remember every word.”
Can we do a collective “Awww”? I mean, how can we handle rejection like this? As David Mitchell said, you don’t forget that type of rejection. As far as I know, every writer I come across can be a bit sensitive and defensive when it comes to their little word babies. And why not? You created it, you built it; you’re a god to the little creatures scurrying around in your brain. So ya, I can see why we all get a bit defensive about it. But guess what? You’re not alone when you’re thrown into that horrible vortex of writer-rejection limbo. If you look around you’ll see thousands of other downcast writers wandering around aimlessly with a creepy smile on their face as they try (and fail) to comfort themselves in their dark cloud of self-pity. Not being alone in this should give you a sense of encouragement. Hopefully.
So, reach out to others. If you’ve recently been rejected from a magazine, journal, etc., talk it out with a fellow writer, or someone who you’re just really close to. Some of them may know exactly what you’re going through, and some of them may not. But that’s fine! Having someone to listen to your problems is always much better than sinking down into your own bog of eternal stench alone. Joining a writer’s workshop or group can become a support group to you or even a family of sorts, which might be exactly what you need!
Beyond this, we should try to accept that rejection is, in fact, not rejection. Author Barbara Kingsolver said,
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”
I completely agree with her. Don’t let yourself feel rejection. Instead, be the one to REJECT this idea that you won’t ever get accepted. J.K. Rowling herself was rejected several times before her own manuscript for Harry Potter was accepted for publication. Can you believe that? I bet all of those who previously rejected her feel like idiots! And by George, they should!
So, not only should we look beyond rejection to the chance at acceptance in the *near* future, we should use these instances as a chance to do better-to try again. When that rejection comes in, pay special attention to those who actually give you feedback on your writing. Hopefully they’re not as horrible as the person who rejected David Mitchell from HarperCollins, but even then, there may be some criticism that can help mold your work into something even better.
Neil Gaiman offers this advice on criticism: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” It’s a bit cryptic, but I’ll take it. For me, I read this as: don’t let harsh criticism get in your way, but listen to it, for the chance to make something better. Sometimes those who give you advice might be wrong, as Gaiman said, but it doesn’t hurt to open yourself up to those suggestions.
When it comes down to it, rejection will always hurt, even if just a little. There are ways to deal with it, whether that be with sharing experiences with family, friends, writing, groups, etc. Writer Sylvia Plath said, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” Be optimistic like Sylvia (and I refer to this quote-not necessarily her optimism or lack thereof at the end of her life *sorry for my dark humor*). Try and try, and try again. Your writing will get you to where you want to go, if you work hard enough. Maybe the first time sending it out won’t lead to anything, but if you keep refurbishing, molding, and chipping away at your work, you will come away with a story that will someday reach hundreds, thousands, if not millions. And that is definitely something worth fighting for.