Rejection. It’s part of a writer’s life.
It happens. We put our work out there and end up hearing the words we dread.
“Your story lacks originality.”
“Your characters aren’t engaging.”
“We have all the [insert your sub-category] we need.”
Or we receive the form letter reply with no reason given at all.
I’m going to share three steps that can help us handle rejection:
Let’s look at the first step:
Realize that rejection happens. We can’t avoid it.
It hurts, so allow some time to react. Indulge in a few tears if that helps. I’m not saying to dwell on the rejection or throw a pity party, but realize you suffered a blow.
Allow yourself a reward for taking a risk.
- Rent a movie.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Eat something yummy, like chocolate.
If action works better for you:
- Go for a run.
- Do some yard work.
- Clean off your writing desk.
Maybe you’d rather talk things out.
- Vent to an online writing partner.
- Call an RWA chapter mate who can buoy you up.
- Go to lunch with a supportive girlfriend who’s a great listener.
It can help to remember that just like the sweet smell of cinnamon, the pain of rejection only lasts a short time.
Once you’ve allowed yourself time to react, you’re ready to move on to step two:
Once the initial emotional response has passed, it’s time to look at the situation with objectivity.
Author James Lee Burke says, “There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.”
Begin by asking yourself what you did well. Look for the positives.
- Did the agent/editor like your storytelling ability?
- Did s/he compliment your snappy dialogue?
On the flip side, examine negative feedback with an open mind. See what you can learn from it.
- Did the agent/editor help you identify a potential plot weakness?
- Did s/he suggest you read a book on character development?
After you’ve reflected on the comments you received and learned all you can about your strengths and weaknesses, you’re ready for step three.
Now it’s time to get back to the serious business of writing.
Young multimillionaire, author, and Distinguished Toastmaster Bo Bennett says,
“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”
It’s important to remember that only losers avoid rejection. You may be afraid to try again, but anxiety can be an ally, helping you to perform better.
One yes erases a lot of no’s.
Set small goals. Say to yourself:
- I’ll send out one query this week.
- I’ll read one book on craft this month.
- I’ll start that new story I’ve been thinking about.
Another technique you can try is to use reverse psychology to turn rejection into a positive.
Ask a trusted friend to hold onto a $50 bill and not return it until you’ve suffered an agreed upon number of rejections. That way you’ll be more willing to endure them.
In spite of the pain you endure when turned down, don’t stop trying. Rebound from rejection, give it another go, and you’ll be on your way to more successes.
In closing, the next time you hear those words, “No, thanks. We’re not interested in your manuscript” remember the three steps to rejection deflection:
You’ve succeeded at endeavors you’ve undertaken in the past, and I know you will again. After all, you’re creative, clever, courageous people up to a challenge.
You’re romance writers!
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How do you deal with rejection? How long does it take before you’re ready to put fingers to keyboard again after receiving bad news? What techniques do you find most helpful to move beyond the pain and embrace the possibilities yet to come?