As a writer, the worst thing you can do is work in an environment of fear of rejection.
If you’ve sent your work out before, you’re probably familiar with responses like this one: “Thank you for letting us read [insert name of piece here], but . . .”
Ah, the dreaded “but.” A writer’s worst enemy.
Or is it?
Each time we let our work leave the nest, there’s a niggling worry that our poor words may not remember how to fly. We’re afraid they’ll flop into a broken, wingless mess. We’re afraid someone will tell us we’re not good enough. Sometimes this fear is so great that we don’t send anything out at all. We condemn our work before it’s even had a shot.
It’s all too easy to get emotional about rejections — to make excuses: “Oh, the subject I’ve written about is too ‘out there.’ ” “The piece isn’t/wasn’t ready.” “Everything I write is crap.” “They want this kind of thing now because it sells, not the stuff I write . . .” “I’m not a poet.” (This one was mine, and alas the first thing I got published was a poem.)
There are any number of reasons a piece may be rejected. None of which you’re likely to guess. And in the end, the reasons don’t matter. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It doesn’t mean the editors or the agents or the magazines didn’t like your work.
Rejection means one thing and one thing only: You have to keep fighting.
Yes, it sucks waiting 2-6 months only to get a “Thank you, but . . .” Yes, it’s dull work, foraging through countless magazines and agents, trying to find people and places that will best represent your voice, only to have to do it again and again and again. And YES, the moments of doubt are an unwanted burden. But rejection is better than the silence. If you’re getting rejected, you’re getting your work out there. You’re taking the time to do something for your writing. And for yourself.
That’s certainly better than letting your work sit in a drawer somewhere, isn’t it? I think most writers dream about publishing their stories. But successful writers are the ones who do something to make those dreams a reality — no matter how long it takes. They take chances. They trust their words. They persevere.
BE one of those writers.
Rejoice every time you get a “Thank you, but . . .” It means one more person has taken the time to hear what you have to say. Post them on the wall to remind yourself you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ve weeded out one more editor, agent, or literary magazine that wasn’t right for your piece.
But most of all (and I can’t stress this enough):
Fight for your rejections. Every time you get one, you’re one step closer to an acceptance. Fight for your words. If you won’t fight for them, then who will? Fight even if you’re fighting to fail. Because if you don’t fail, how do you eventually succeed?
You can’t expect to get anywhere if you won’t leave the tree.
So quit making excuses and let go. Take the first step.
Let your work fly.
I used to save all my rejection slips because I told myself, one day I’m going to autograph these and auction them. And then I lost the box.
—James Lee Burke
What’s your experience with rejection?
Reblogged this on Words and Wanderings.
Love this! Stephen King also saved his rejections. I haven’t printed mine out, but I do have them all in a folder in my email.
In my experience, the thing that helps me the most with rejection is diving into a new project. That way I’m not hyper-focused on waiting to hear back from an agent–I’m too busy building my new story to give it much attention. I’m not done querying my first novel yet, but if it doesn’t work out, I won’t be heartbroken, because my second book is going to be even better.
Well said! I want to get a bulletin board for them, but I haven’t yet. Like you, I keep them all in a special folder in my email. I haven’t yet gone back to read them, but I do count them occasionally to see how well I’m doing!
I can definitely relate to that. Work on new things while you’re waiting. That’s excellent advice for anyone new to sending work out. Thanks for sharing!
Okay, this is going to sound really weird, but I just had a Disney moment. In Beauty and the Beast, where Gaston is getting ready to go fight the beast – “So who’s with me?” he asks. And the chorus of “I am” shouted from every direction rallies the forces, builds momentum, and gets the march started. Yeah, thanks for that Michelle. Aside from being one of my favorite Disney movies, it’s also gotten me to think about that next step that’s right for me 😉
Sorry I’m so slow in responding. I had a busy couple weeks submitting my thesis. I’m happy to say I’m done with that!
That’s an odd comparison, but I’ll take the compliment. Even if Gaston is so . . . Gaston. Hehe. I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂
I am slowly amassing rejections for lit mags and anthologies. I plan to hit 100 before I even think about it. I’d love to get 100 in 2015 but I’m much slower on the submission front for lack of time, lol.
Man, I ENJOY the quality of writing on this site – thank you so much, Michelle. I have been putting off sending a query letter for the last month – think I should do it this week? 😉
Thank you #HUGSSSSSS
Aw, the compliments! You’re more than welcome. I hope you sent that letter! Sorry I’m late in responding. Been a busy couple weeks. But if you haven’t done it yet, do it! 🙂
Wonderful, Michelle. I tell myself, “Each time I hear a NO, it takes me one step closer to that YES.” It still hurts like hell, but it does console me somewhat.
The best writers will thrive on those NOs. 🙂 What great authors of the past weren’t told no at least once? I find that always puts it into perspective for me. Thanks, Marcy.
Ever tried, ever failed. No matter.
Try again, fail again – fail better!
Exactly. 🙂 Thanks!
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