Originally published at The Oxford Editors
Nobody likes rejection. Nobody approaches a crush and thinks, I really hope they shoot me down! It’s tough to put yourself on the line, and that’s exactly what you’re doing every time you submit your writing. Your work is a piece of you, and having your writing rejected often feels like being rejected as a person—like being told, You’re not good enough. So how do you deal with that? It’s extremely difficult, especially in an industry often approached by insiders and outsiders as a pipe dream. Wow, you really think you can be published someday? Good luck!
As a writer, rejection and failure are not possibilities—they are absolute certainties. And how you deal with them will make or break your career. Here are some tips for facing rejection and using it to drive your success!
This is often the easiest thing to do early in the submission process. You’ve finished your novel-baby. You’ve polished it until it shines. Now you’re sending it into the world. Got that first rejection? Yes! It has begun! You’re one step closer to publication! This might come naturally. But if it doesn’t, take a moment to celebrate. Buy some streamers and throw a party. That rejection begins a new stage in the journey of your writing project.
Grit your teeth and smile
When the celebration wears off and the rejections start taking their toll, bear down and keep smiling. Do what you have to do to keep submitting. Did you get that? Keep submitting. That’s the key here. Write it on your wall. Tattoo it on your arm.
Do NOT stop submitting. [Click to Tweet]
Rejection pisses you off. You know what that means? You care. You want it. There’s nothing wrong with getting angry, and there’s nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to work it out. Go for a run. Take up boxing. Throw your lamp at the wall (provided there are no humans or animals in its trajectory). Get angry, but don’t get discouraged. Use your emotions—don’t let them stop you from working.
Recognize Each Rejection as a Stepping Stone
Every single rejection is a step toward acceptance. There’s no doubt about that. Fifty rejections put you a hell of a lot closer to acceptance than five rejections. So if you’re strong enough to bear more rejection, you’ll be rewarded. The easiest way to handle that burden is to know and believe that a high enough pile of rejections becomes a stairway.
Ask for help
You’re not alone. You’re not the first person to put pen to paper or the first to have your work rejected. There are people out there who have gone through the same trials and have come out the other side. Reach out to them! Ask them how they got through it and what it’s like in that bright, sunshiny life of a published author. Ask them what you can do to make the process easier, to be more productive, to increase your chances of reaching your goals. And while you’re at it, find some people who are also trying to scape out that first publication. Encourage each other. Writing is often solitary, but it does not have to be lonely.
Recognize the Myth of the Overnight Success
Everyone loves to talk about overnight successes. We look at the people on top and think, They have it all. Why do they deserve success more than I do? What makes them special? The answer: They’re not special! They weren’t out for a stroll when fruit from the success tree fell and bonked them on the head, and they don’t deserve success more than you do. They are simply at a different point in their journey. Everything they have, they’ve worked for it. They have stacks of rejections, just like you. The difference is their stacks are higher.
They are not rejecting you!
It’s so easy to feel every time we see Thank you for your submission, but… that we are being told we’re not good enough. There is something intrinsically bad about us as writers and as people. And that’s just not true. The key, the write this one down you’re gonna need it trick, to withstanding rejection is being able to separate yourself into three people—the writer, the submitter, and the human being. Keep them separate, and keep them safe. Understand that each rejection rejects only the piece. It does not reject you as a writer. And more importantly, it does not reject you as a person. Your value as a human being is not tied to your writing, and when that becomes clear, submitting becomes a whole lot easier. Because you’re not risking your self-worth every time you send out your stuff. You’re taking a chance with that piece. You’re placing yourself in a position to fail. And you are giving yourself the opportunity to succeed.
Friends, I leave you with one final piece of advice for coping with rejection, one last thing to remember, one last mantra to repeat in your mind whenever the strain of rejection begins to wear on you: Without rejection, there is no success.
Without rejection, there is no success. [Click to Tweet]
So go out there, and get rejected! Count up those letters because they’re forming a stairway and bringing you closer, one at a time.