10 October 2012

the 'r' word: 5 ways to face rejection like a pro

The 'R' Word: How to Handle Rejection Like a Pro
When you are a writer, you face the constant threat of rejection. I’d love to be able to say “you get used to it” … but the reality is there’s almost always that sting that accompanies every “No” you receive. It’s really no wonder—our writing is like our babies. Every “No,” to me, is like an editor saying, “Your baby just isn’t good enough to fit in here.” That’s like a blatant indictment of my parenting skills … I just failed my baby. How am I supposed to take that as a positive?

I recently had another writer friend ask me this very question, and I gave the most honest answer I could think of: it’s hard, but it comes with the job. And as much as it might seem like a cop out response, I honestly believe that the road to a single “yes” may be paved by a thousand—or even a million—“no”s, but it’s still a journey worth taking. I just shared this sentiment last week, when I received my first rejection of the October Submit-O-Rama! I share it again because I believe it's true.

If we are to undertake such a treacherous journey, we writers need ways of dealing with that rejection in a way that helps us to take it, deal with it, and move on. We need ways of reminding ourselves that the sting is temporary, and it's leading to a great reward.

“What are those ways,” you ask? Well, here are five of them:

1. Rejection “rejection”
Write a parodical rejection of your rejection notice. In it, kindly thank the editor for his/her submission of the rejection for your consideration. Inform the editor that, regrettably, you are unable to accept the rejection at this time, and state your reasons if you wish. Affirm your assuredness that your writing career is still on the right path. Assure the editor that, while the rejection does not suite your needs at this time, you welcome them to try again in the future. Sign it, and post it on your wall. Or keep a notebook and paste both rejections side-by-side.

2. Rejection art
You may have seen, from time to time, a piece of rejection art on this site. Rejection art simply takes a rejection notice and turns it into a praising piece of art. Cut out the words that don’t suite you, and leave only a nice little message from “the editors” affirming how much they love your writing. With so many journals moving to online submission managers, that means a lot more electronic rejection slips, and a lot easier of a time creating your art in an image manipulation program like Paint, Photoshop, or Gimp.

3. Rejection game
Have a challenge among your writer friends and issue awards for the writer who receives any of the following: the nicest rejection, the meanest rejection, the funniest rejection, the most rejections, etc. It’s a nice way to perhaps lose a publication credit but still walk away winning something!

4. Rejection road
Make a mural with your rejection slips tracing your path to a yes. You might sketch out an actual road on your wall, and add each rejection as it comes (who knows … the road may be shorter than you think). Or create a road map to “YES” and along the path sketch in the name of each place that sent you a rejection slip. This is a nice way to remind yourself that the answer was “No” for now, but it’s all leading up to that glorious “Yes” moment.

5. Rejection wish
Hopefully we’ve all seen that flying wish paper: you write your wish down, set it on fire, and watch it float away. Unfortunately your rejection slip is probably printed on paper that won’t so easily float away. But that’s no excuse not to go ahead and burn it! Take your rejection slip, and write a simple wish or hope on the back: “May the next one be a yes,” for example. Then, carefully, burn the rejection slip—let the flames burn the sting out of your memory.

However you choose to handle a rejection, remember that it’s not personal, and it comes with the territory. It’s not easy, but the more you’re able to face it and move on, the happier you’ll eventually be with your writerly journey! So shoulders back, chin up, and as always … Happy writing!

How do you choose to deal with the dreaded rejection slip? What do you tell yourself when you receive a rejection to keep yourself motivated as a writer? Don't forget to share your tips and ideas in the comments below!


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  1. I reread the particular piece of writing and smile. I smile because sometimes that piece wasn't ready for the editor, and I reassure it that I'm going to give it the best treatment I can and find a better place for it.

    Like you, I do think of my writing as "my baby" and have come to understand that "I didn't fail" my baby. Being rejected is not something I can control. However, nurturing the writing, rereading, reediting, that is something I can control. Thus, I'll just smile and get the piece ready to fly on its own.

    1. What a great strategy, Sopphey; thank you for sharing. I love the idea of writing as not just our "babies," but as baby birds slowly learning to fly!

  2. The interesting thing about rejection is that is never stops. I have a book contract, and I still get whole chapters or parts of chapters rejected. It can be a real blow after a lot of hard work and invested time, but with every rejection I become a better writer.

    1. That's great insight, especially for new/fledgling writers and writers just getting on their feet with submissions and manuscript work! It's great to know that even though rejection seems a permanent fixture in the writer's life, so is improvement!

  3. These are some funny ideas! I will have to try some of them on a day when I'm feeling discouraged. I bet it will bring me right up out of the blues. Thanks. :-D

    1. My pleasure! I'm personally debating sending out some snail-mail submissions just so I can make some rejection wishes soon :)


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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