I do my best to stay positive about writing. I feel lucky every day that my passion is writing, and I think most of you do, too. So even on days when I feel like I have a million things to grouse about, I try to find a way to be positive about something. Because it just feels better being positive than being negative.
So it grieves me to introduce today's topic: rejection.
It grieves me because there's really not a lot of positive things to say about it (other than the usual, at-least-you're-getting-your-work-out in-the-world platitudes.) But it is a fact of a writer's life. If you're going to send your work out in the world, you've got to learn to handle rejection.
In the old days, back when all publishing business was done via snail mail, you could expect a form letter back. And the old adage was, if you got a handwritten note on it, that meant your writing had promise. Nowadays most rejections come by email and honestly, some of the stock rejections are so carefully worded it is difficult to tell if they are personal or not. An even worse trend is that many agents now state that if they're not interested, they won't contact you. So you end up never hearing, either way.
Anyway it arrives, as a writer, you can be certain that rejection will come to you. And it will sting. But you must experience it. I hate that this is so, but it is. It's the rare writer who gets everything they send out accepted.
Here are a few guidelines to help you handle rejection:
1. Make sure work is ready. A little advance work can help you handle rejection. Namely, figure out if your work is ready. I think all of us have been guilty of being over-eager about our work and sending it out before its time. I know I have. Ways to combat? Join a critique group or find trusted readers to send it to first.
2. Cry. You know you want to. So do it. Let yourself feel the full range of your emotions. Were you absolutely, positively certain this was the agent who would take you on as a client? Let your disappointment rage. Were you sure this was the literary journal that would accept your beloved story? Sob out your anger.
3. Remember the only way out is through. No professions are so intimately linked with our souls as the creative arts. We're writers in every cell of our being and so rejection can feel like it affects every cell of us. It can feel like the world is ending. Literally. If my work is rejected, than what does it say about me and my life? The only way to get through to the other side is to observe and honor these feelings you're having.
4. Treat yourself. This is a time for tender self care. Do something nice for yourself, something special. You deserve it. This is hard work, this writing business, and if you're going to keep it up for the long haul you'll need to temper the bad with the good.
5. Seek support from others. Call another writer or a trusted friend. Warning: don't assume that a family member can give you the comfort you seek. They might not understand the life of a writer well enough to do so. Talking to another in-the-trenches writer who has experienced the same thing can be an enormous salve to the soul.
6. Get back on the horse. Yeah, yeah, I know, it is the last thing on earth you feel like doing. But do it. Send the novel out again. Find another publication to submit your article. It can help to keep a list ready for this. That way, you'll always have a place to go. And remember, every time you go through rejection, it gets easier. (See below.)
7. Celebrate. Probably not the first thing you think of when you think of a rejection. But remember that getting a rejection means you're sending your work out into the world, which is what you have to do to make it as a writer.
So there you have it, my seven steps to dealing with rejection.
Postscript: As I was writing this, I got an email from the folks promoting a new service for writers. The Rejection Generator Project actually sends you an email rejecting your work before an editor does. Why? Because research has shown that after people experience pain, it gets easier to deal with in the future. So you reject yourself first to take the pain out of it. Pretyy cool.
Create a successful, inspired writing life: Choose a project you want to market and do your research on where to send it, whether you're sending to agents or editors. Now choose the top three on your list and get it out there.
Please comment! Do you have a rejection horror story? What's your favorite way to deal with rejection?
Photo by jfg.