The sooner you create a plan for how to handle rejection, the more successful you’ll be, no matter what type of career or life goal you’re pursuing. Luckily, you’re a writer, so you’ll get lots of practice putting your plan into action.
Writers face rejection in so many aspects of their careers. You are rejected by agents, publishers, publications, editors, and even friends and family. If you’re lucky enough to get published, you can be rejected by the general public as well — yay, you!
Okay, all kidding aside, it’s not fun to be rejected. But it is important. Without rejection, our horizons stay boringly un-broadened. We stick to what we know and miss all the amazing skills, tricks, and tips that might be one criticism away.
So what’s the key to getting the most out of rejection? Let’s take a look:
Don’t let it get you down. Easier said than done, I know, but give it a try. Here’s a little quote to remind you what to do when the going gets tough (and, hopefully, help you see the humor in things).
Okay, you’ve decided to keep a stiff upper lip. What’s next?
The trick to knowing how to handle rejection is more than just using mind games to keep your attitude positive; it’s actively searching for the elements of the rejection that are going to take your game to the next level. And they’re there. I promise. You can add a new skill or trick to your writer’s arsenal with every rejection, which will help make your writing more powerful next time you put pen to paper.
Let’s look at some examples that will show you exactly what I mean about this aspect of how to handle rejection:
Example 1: A publication rejects your article query. The editor says,
“I was interested in your query until I got to the part about writing for low- and no-pay. We never recommend writers stoop to sweatshop status. Those firms CAN afford to pay more. They don’t because too many writers are willing to work for below minimum wage.”
This one is real, and it belongs to me. I had to work hard to get past the fact that this editor’s site offered jobs for writers at far below the pay I was suggesting, but the rejection showed me something crucial about moving forward with this publication. It also highlighted a thing or two about this editor and the way she sees her website in the larger scheme of things. Through this, I knew I could either revise my query to suit her needs or not waste my time and query elsewhere. (I did the latter. I don’t like hypocrisy.)
Example 2: A fiction magazine rejects your short story. The editor says,
“Thanks for submitting to our magazine. Unfortunately, your story does not fit the quality our readers expect.”
Also real, also mine. What did I get from this? First, I took comfort that my story was worth a response; sometimes rejection is just silence. Then, I took a look at that magazine to compare and contrast my story with stories they did publish and seek out the differences (and the similarities). When I rewrote the story to reflect my research, a publication accepted it on my very next query. Score!
So now that you have a start, begin planning what you’ll do if you’re rejected in one of the million other ways out there. When deciding how to handle rejection, your job is to determine what useful, helpful, or good things you can take away from the criticism. There’s always at least one, so look carefully for it. Then, use what you’ve learned to make your writing shine. And never, ever give up!
See you on the next page!
P.S. Interested in reading about other authors’ rejection experiences? Try one of these links: