Life is full of rejection. Last one picked during recess? Rejected. Didn’t get into the college you wanted? Rejected. Turned down for a position you wanted because they “went with someone more qualified”? Rejected.
Sooner or later, rejection feels less like a sharp word or a slamming door and more like a punch in the face.
Correction: repeated punches to the face.
As writers, we spend countless hours pouring our hearts across the pages. We research the subject of our story extensively; it allows the world we live in to slip away as we immerse ourselves in a new one. We explore the soul of humanity, dig into the darkest corners of psychology, and delve into social issues that exist in reality.
We battle our inner critique, who tells us all the time that nothing we write will ever be good enough. Sometimes, we battle our friends and family who might remark on the failings of writers and how it’s not really a job.
Still, many of us carry on until it’s time to send out our book – practically our children- to a stranger who might be able to make something out of it. We wait, we hope, we expect.
And we’re rejected.
I’d like to think of us writers as the resilient kind. Almost every writer I have ever met have told me that even though they receive innumerable amounts of rejection letters, the idea of giving up or backing down is inconceivable. If they get punched in the face, then they get up, dust it off, and take a walk.
So what sets these writers apart from those who get sucker punched and stay curled up in the fetal position? Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective and an understanding of how you, the writer, can benefit from rejection.
Here are five ways to use rejection to your advantage:
- No doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer:
- A “No” could have many meanings. It might be the Publisher or Agent’s way of saying that your book simply isn’t for them. It might carry with it a paragraph explaining where you went wrong. At best, they just aren’t interested enough. At worst, they might criticize your work. None of the above states “we can’t accept your work because you’re a terrible writer.” Which brings us to…
- Rejection isn’t personal:
- Instead of viewing “no” as a nefarious stab to the heart, understand that sometimes being told “no” isn’t personal. It might feel, at first, like they are rejecting you as a person rather than your work. Look beyond this and instead ask, “Why is my work being rejected?” No can lead to a path of understanding how you can succeed.
- Use Rejection as fuel for the fire:
- After you understand where you went wrong, you can begin to improve upon it. Rather than allowing rejection to cripple you, use it as motivation. Personally, I keep all my rejection letters. I like to remember how much that first “no” hurt, and the second, and the third, and so on. Skip the tantrum and ditch any ego that flares up. Take the “no” and turn it into progress rather than a reason to quit.
- They are opinions, after all:
- Never, ever forget that rejections are not absolute laws. They are opinions from those who eat, breathe and live in the publishing world. Their “no” is more or less an opinion. You could submit to one agent, who absolutely doesn’t like your story at all, and submit to another who swears it’s the greatest manuscript they’ve read in years.
- Great things come to those who wait:
- Persistence is key. Continue polishing your work, take whatever valuable insight is given into consideration, refuse to allow negative criticism to break you, and don’t give up. It might take some time before an Agent or Publisher accepts your work. Think of it this way: “No” doesn’t mean never. It might mean “not right now.” Take the time to create the best version of your work to present again and again. What we desire most doesn’t come easy but one thing is certain: we have more of a chance of success if we keep trying than if we threw in the towel.