Rejection happens. Whether you’re querying a novel, pitching articles to magazines and newspapers or submitting work to contests and competitions, at one point or another you’re going to be rejected. Sometimes again and again. And it’s going to hurt, it’s going to make you question whether you’ve got what it takes to be in this business, it’s going to shake you to your core. But as bad as it feels, you have to move on and keep writing and keep believing. I’ve been writing professionally for more than 20 years, and rejection doesn’t get any easier. You just kinda deal with it it, like rain on a parade, and learn how to cope. Here are 7 ways I’ve found that help weather the storm:
1. Work on something new. This will keep your mind busy and focused on something else and help you to move forward when all you want to do is lie on the couch and eat sugar cookies for the rest of your life. Working on something new will remind you that your career is dictated by you and not by a short email or letter in the mail.
2. Get out of the house or office. Go for a walk or a drive or whatever reminds you that there’s a great big world out there and that this rejection is but one tiny little piece of it.
3. Talk to other writers. Talk to your colleagues on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll bet that every one of them can recount a few rejection war stories and even laugh about them now. And, trust me, soon you will too.
4. Call your mother. Or your best friend. Or your spouse. Call anyone who will lavish praise on you at the drop of a hat. Now’s the time for them to tell you how wonderful you are, how those idiots will be sorry when you’re a famous writer and they missed out on the chance to work with you. Yes, they know nothing about your writing or the publishing industry, but it will still feel good.
5. Don’t take it personally. Always, always remember that what has been rejected is your work — that one piece of your work — not you. Think of it as someone telling you that she doesn’t like the outfit you’re wearing today. Does that mean that she doesn’t like all your clothes? Plus, isn’t that just her opinion? Does this mean you’re going to go home and change? Probably not.
6. Learn something from the experience. Editors don’t often tell you why your work has been rejected, so it’s up to you to figure out why it may have happened. Was your writing as clean as it should be (no grammatical errors)? Did it adhere to the submission guidelines? Did you submit to the right outlet? (Sometimes our writing gets rejected, because it wasn’t the right fit for a magazine or book publisher.) Did you handle the rejection the right way? What could you have done differently? Finding the answer to these questions will help you to become a stronger, more experienced writer.
7. Try, try again. You can choose to revise your work and resubmit, particularly if it’s a contest, or simply query another publication or publisher. Perseverance is key in this business. You’ve got to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and write to see another day.