Tag Archives | Rejection

Get Rid of Your Fear of Rejection Once and For All

Broken_cracked_glass_265858_lRejection.  It is a fact of the writer’s life.

I wish I could tell you that this was not so.  I wish I could tell you that everything you send off would get picked up immediately.  But I can’t.  It is just not the way the world works.  And so, alas, if you are a writer you will need to get used to rejection.

For some writers, the thought of rejection is so paralyzing that they simply won’t send work out to begin with.  This fear or rejection is, um, counter-productive to say the least.  Because you know the old saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

To help you with this fear, I could tell you all the rejection—>triumph stories.  You’ve heard the one about John Grisham, who sent his first book out __ (the number varies according to the telling) before someone saw the brilliance of it.  And we know what happened to him: gazillions of dollars later, he’s a happy man (or at least I damned well hope he is).

I’ve also often told the story of one of my MFA mentors who sent one short story out 34 times.  It got rejected 34 times.  On the 35th time, she got it accepted–and that story went on to win a Pushcart prize.

Or there’s my own story, about my first novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.  I sent queries to 60 agents.  Yep, 60.  Its worth noting that I was getting encouraging rejections (we love this novel, but…).  The 61st time I sent it to a publisher.  And they picked it up.

So, rah rah rah and all that.  I do know from personal experience that stories such as these can lift me up in the moment until its time to actually send stuff out again.  And then … the voice of doom in my head begins.

But here’s help.  Because I’ve recently realized we deal with our fear of rejection from the wrong end of the equation.   We deal with it when it happens, when the it has the power to lay us out flat on the couch sobbing for days.  A huge part of the reason we get so discouraged over rejection is because we have such high hopes for our work.  We are convinced that we will send the story out once, and sure enough, it will get picked up.  We’ll contact an agent and she’ll snap us before the book is even written.   We send off the query, and every time we think about the results of it–publication, fame, accolades–we get a warm, glowy feeling inside.

Okay, so I’m here to tell you: the easiest way to deal with rejection is to get rid of your expectations in the first place.  Instead of thinking about publication and how glorious it will be, let your work be the reward.  When you know its time to send your piece out–and you will know if you’re honest with yourself–do your research and ship it out the door.  And then quit thinking about it and move on.

Cultivate an attitude of non-expectation.  Be Buddhist. Be Zen. Do not be attached to the outcome, period.  And get to work on your next project.

Let your work be your reward.

Then, when the rejection comes, it is far, far easier to shrug your shoulders and say to yourself, I guess it just wasn’t right for them, and move on.  And by moving on I mean, send it out again.  Because you haven’t put the weight of the world on your poor little query, it will be much happier to go out into the world and try once more.

Right?  So go send something out.  Right now.  I’m serious.  Do it.  And report back when you’re done.

Photograph by Jfg.

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How Many Times Has Your Writing Been Rejected?

Last night, one of the members of my writing group got married. Love-marriage-weddings-39211-l

All but one of the current members of the group were there, and a couple former members turned up as well. 

Talk turned, as it will amongst such groups, to rejection.  Soon we were attempting to outdo each other with how many rejections we'd each received.

  • I allowed as how I'd sent out Emma Jean at least 50 times.
  • My retreat partner said she'd sent out her book of cat photographs well over 100 times.
  • And yet another writer told me he'd submitted his novel 120 times.*

Lest you think we're all just bad writers, consider this:

  • My novel will be published by Vagabondage Press in February of 2013.
  • My retreat partner just got word yesterday that the cat book will be published next year as well.
  • And the other writer's earlier novel has been made into a movie that will be released in September.

Rejection.  It is part of the writer's life.  To become a successful, published writer, you have to steel yourself againt rejection.  You have to learn to live with it.  And you need to be able to bounce back from it and submit again, as the numbers above testify.  Too many writers stop after getting two or three rejections.

Here are some posts I've written about rejection:

7 Steps to Handle Rejection

A 5-Step Process to Deal With Rejection

Handling Rejection

Getting Your Work Out in the World: The Mindset

Getting Your Work Out in the World: The Mechanics

That ought to keep you reading for awhile.  While you're at it,

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Submit something.  Maybe it is something that's been rejected before, maybe it is something new.  Doesn't matter.  Just do it.

Please, please, comment.  Care to admit how many times you've been rejected?  How do you handle it?

*Names have been omitted to protect the rejectees.

Photo by clshearin.

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7 Steps to Handle Rejection

Luck-hope-help-3596-lI 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.

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Rejection: Tempting the Fates

So, I wrote a post about Michael Phelps last week and how he used rejection and ridicule (who's laughing now, twitty teenagers who made fun of him?  Huh? Huh?) to spur himself on.  I mentioned that perhaps we writers could take a page from ol' Michael's book and use that same technique when we get rejected ourselves.

Ah, the universe is such a trickster.

Because it was only a few short days later that I got a rejection from an agent. 

This wasn't a nice rejection, where the agent makes a few pithy suggestions about how to improve the novel.  It wasn't even a rejection that was signed by the agent.  It was a flippin' form letter. 

I haven't gotten a form letter rejection in ages.  To make matters worse, this particular agent is known for representing many of the mentors and alumni of the MFA program I attended. 

And I get a flippin' form letter from her.

The funny thing is, I found the letter in the stack of mail and I knew.  First of all, the  SASEs are a dead give-away and immediately recognizable.  But I swear, the energy of the rejection was contained on the envelope itself, and I knew without even opening it what the result was going to be.

I whined and moaned a bit on Twitter and my tweeples cheered me up.  And then I realized I'd written that post about Michael Phelps and loftily suggested we all emulate him when it came to rejection.

So now I'm going to.  Watch out New York publishing world, cuz I'm mad!  I'm angry, and I'm inspired and, just like Michael (I think we can all call him Michael now, don't you?) I'm going to use this anger to fuel my success.

Oh, there's just one drawback that occurs to me.  Michael can train harder, swim harder, eat more calories for breakfast and go out there and break records all by his little own self.  I can write harder, write better, send my novel out more, obsess about eating too much for breakfast, and I still can't necessarily achieve success all by my little own self.  I need an agent. 

That's the rub about the publishing industry and the film biz–you can put your heart and soul into it and still you have to rely on someone else to recognize your brilliance. 

So I guess all I can do is do my best and work my hardest and let the universe, trickster that it is non-withstanding, make things happen.

And be grateful I don't have to spend hours every day swimming.  I love my man Michael, but I'm the worst swimmer in the world.

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Take A Hint From Michael Phelps

I adore Michael Phelps almost as much as I love his mother.  I think I just love seeing the two of them together because it reminds me of my relationship with my own adored son, Lewis.  There's just something so unique about that mother-son relationship.  Of course, the mother-daughter relationship is special and unique also but that's for another post.

NBC had an extended interview with Phelps this evening, first with Phelps, his coach, and Rowdie Gaines (do we love that name or what?) and then with Phelps and his mother, who it turns out is a middle school principal in Baltimore. 

This interview was particularly illuminating because Phelps and his mother talked about how he was made fun of and bullied through much of his school career.   The other kids mocked his ears, mocked his dedication, mocked his "nerdiness."  But instead of this having a detrimental effect on him, it was actually quite the opposite.  It fueled him to work harder, swim faster, win more.

And this motivation continued throughout his career.  Every time people from other teams (especially those pesky French) talked trash to him in the run-up to the Olympics, he didn't let it get him down.  Instead, the comments motivated him.  His coach figured this out and handed him the articles, with the best quotes highlighted.  Michael would post them at the back of his locker and read them over and over again.

Now, me, I might hear the comments of those trash-talking French swimmers and wither.  I might decide that they are correct.  But Phelps took the opposite tack and we all know the result–8 gold medals at this Olympics only, 14 overall, the most ever by an Olympian. 

Just think about how our writing careers might take a huge leap forward if we used rejection as our fuel and motivation.  If, when you got a rejection from an agent for the novel you have loved and slaved over, you posted that rejection and read it every day and used it to fuel your determination to get your novel published.

I have to admit that I, for one, do not do that.  Instead I think about how stupid that agent is for rejecting me and then I start to wonder if maybe she is really smart and I'm the dumb one for submitting my novel in the first place.  And then I think some more and realize that my novel is such a huge piece of idiocy that even the post man was embarrassed to have to handle it and that I will never, ever, as long as I draw breath on this planet and no doubt any others, publish a novel.

So, hmmm, Phelps' approach or mine, which is the more useful?  Gosh, that's a no-brainer.

So I am going to try the Phelps approach to rejection and adversity.  I'm going to celebrate my next rejection because I will know that it is fueling my efforts to move forward and publish a novel.  I'm going to post that rejection on my bulletin board over my desk and read it often, instead of hiding it in a file cabinet, or burning it.

By the way, just in case, the universe or creator or source or God or goddess is reading this post, can I just say that I would really prefer not to have to put this to the test?  That I can live just fine without another rejection?

But just on the off chance there's another rejection in the offing, I'll let you know how the Phelps Theory works out for me.

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