Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?
– Chuck Wendig, ‘25 Things Writers Should Know about Rejection’ from Terrible Minds
‘The tentacles of woe’. Was there ever a better way to describe the feeling of rejection? Especially from publishing professionals – you watch those rejection letters come in one at a time, threatening to squeeze the life out of all your hard work and passion. Writers pursuing the traditional publishing route will almost certainly face a mountain of rejection during their careers. But even self-published authors face rejection in one form or another. So, Chuck’s question is one that every author should ask of themselves. What kind of writer are you? What kind of writer do you want to be?
Perspective is power
You’ve heard how it goes. You’ve written your book, you’ve run it through your beta readers, you’ve revised it, you’ve had it professionally edited; your book is beautiful, it’s polished, it’s ready to go out into the world and touch the lives of your readers. You send it out to agents and eagerly await their glowing emails. Instead, *crickets*. When you do get that email back, it’s a two-line rejection. They’re not interested, and they don’t explain why. Ouch!
Maybe you don’t need to imagine this scenario because you’ve lived it, maybe many times over. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you will. And if not from an agent or publisher, you’ll face rejection from readers, family, friends, or other writers. Rejection, in some form or another, is part of the writer’s life.
Are you going to let rejection hurt you? Make you bitter, resentful, withdrawn, discouraged? Or will you let it shape you, grow you, encourage you? You may not have control over the destiny of your book, but you do have control over your perspective. And that has more power than you might think.
Walking the path of negativity will limit you; that’s a fact. But if you can survive rejection, if you let it help you, I guarantee you’ll find unexpected doors opening to you.If you can survive rejection, you can find a way to thrive. Click To Tweet
In this way, I hope you not only survive rejection but find a way to thrive in spite of it.
Busyness isn’t necessarily bad
Thriving in spite of rejection? That might sound overly optimistic. I don’t mean you should try to be happy about it or put on a brave face. I don’t think surviving and thriving is about managing your feelings so much as determining to do something productive in the meantime.
Here’s what I do know. If you just sit around checking your email every hour for weeks on end, it’s going to be easy to wallow in negativity. But if you can get up and get focused on something productive, things will start looking up. You won’t be thinking about those rejections all the time, and you’ll be stirred by the energy and possibility of a new project.Use rejection as a springboard into new endeavors.Click To Tweet
So, here are a few ideas to get you moving in a positive direction:
- Start a new project. This could be another book, or you could try something different: a short story, a novella, a screenplay, a graphic novel, etc.
- Collaborate with a friend. This will challenge your creativity, grow your craft, and lift your spirits.
- Expand your network. Attend a conference, a publishing event, a writer’s group, a book club. Try to make new connections with other writers, publishing professionals, and readers. Sometimes finding that ‘Yes’ isn’t about getting the book ‘right’ but about getting it into the hands of the right people.
In short, get busy doing something else and you won’t be focused on rejection. Not only that, you’ll find new doors opening to you, and you never know where that might lead.
Compassion comes back to you
We’ve all heard the platitude that our pain can help someone else get through their own. While not always the most appropriate thing to say in tragic circumstances, this is actually great advice for writers who succeed past rejection. It’s hard to have this mindset when you haven’t had your success story yet, but let yourself imagine it in your future.
Getting your book published will be a reality, if you don’t give up. One way or another, you will accomplish that goal. And when you do, don’t forget what it felt like to see your book turned down. Your friends will come to you in the future with their own rejection letters, with their frustration and disappointment and doubt. In that moment, you’ll have a success story to share. You’ll have words of encouragement to build up your struggling friends. You’ll have the wisdom to save them from the tentacles of woe!You’re part of a chain of writerly support – accept help and pass it on.Click To Tweet
This is about more than just doing a good deed for your fellow writer. It’s about building and strengthening your community. A thriving writing community is good for you and good for your fellow authors, but it’s also one of the most successful networking tools. If you neglect your writing community, you’re hurting yourself and your chances at success.
So, yes, be good to your friends. But be good to yourself, too. Try to take a wider view of rejection than just that word ‘No’ on the paper.
Rejection is a setback; it does hurt; it can feel like a dead-end. But it doesn’t have to be. You can turn that negativity around and make it work for you. Let it spur you on to new opportunities. Check your perspective, find a new outlet to inspire you again, and trust that there is a success story in your future. Now go find it!
How do you cope with rejection in your writing process? What do you do in the meantime to stay inspired and encouraged? If you have a success story that started with rejection, please share it with us in the comments! Or, for more great advice on this topic, check out Your Complete Guide To Getting Useful Criticism and How To Get Good Publicity Out Of Bad Book Reviews.